Two gay men running for election to the Russian Parliament in an attempt to inspire the country's LGBT community to fight against homophobia and President Vladimir Putin.
Bulat Barantayev and Aleksei Korolyov are running to represent the socially liberal Parnas coalition party in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and southern city of Krasnodar respectively, and while they are realistic about their slim chances of being elected as openly gay men, they hope to prove that your sexuality should not be a barrier to higher office.
The pair were inspired to enter politics in response to Russia's ‘gay propaganda’ ban, which outlawed any "promotion" of homosexuality.
Discussing the draconian laws, Barantayev - who created gay rights organisation GORD in 2011 - says authorities have "branded [LGBT+ people] as enemies in order to divert the public’s attention from real economic and political problems."
He told REFERL
: "For a long time now, I have used all opportunities to cultivate an audience for accepting LGBTI people.
"By my example, I show that gays in Russia can create their own successful businesses, can meet with people, can have children, and can even run for the State Duma."
Barantayev is open about the state-sponsored violence he has been subjected to in Russia as an openly gay man.
"I have been attacked, I was called and summoned to the mayor’s office in response to my application to hold an LGBTI event.
"But outside the building, I was jumped by thugs and beaten up. When I return home late, young men that I don’t know call me by name and shout obscenities."
Meanwhile, Korolyov says that Russia's homophobic authorities must be fought head-on in Parliament.
"The LGBT community now is in a desperate situation and we need allies. It is good that we have been able to form an alliance with Parnas," he said.
"I decided to run because the ruling party has adopted an extreme homophobic position. The authorities are facilitating a homophobic discourse in society that is inciting hate crimes."
Russian parliamentary elections are set to take place on the September 28.
The Warwick Rowers are back for 2017 with a NSFW new vide – WATCH
Nyle DiMarco discusses sexuality and changing deaf lives in Attitude’s October issue