Russian_FlagHuman Rights Watch has released a video featuring shocking images of gay men being persecuted and physically attacked in Russia.

The four-and-a-half minute video, which was uploaded to YouTube earlier today (February 4), features footage filmed and shared online by the attackers themselves.

Tanya Cooper, Human Rights Watch’s Russia researcher, said in a statement: “The Russian authorities have the power to protect the rights of LGBT people, but instead they are ignoring their responsibility to do so. By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people.”

In June 2013, Russia passed laws banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” towards minors, and there has been an increasingly hostile atmosphere towards the country’s LGBT community.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia begin on Friday (February 7) and run until February 23. In the run-up to the games, over 50 current and former Olympians have urged Russian authorities to repeal the anti-gay laws.

Watch the video below – but be warned that it does contain footage that some viewers will find extremely disturbing.

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMTbFSJ_Tr4[/youtube]