In early December, the Ministry of Justice completed a planned inspection of the Arkhangelsk social organization of social-psychological and legal assistance to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) "Rakurs" and registered it as a foreign agent. Head of the organization Tatyana Vinnichenko believes that she and her colleagues are not engaged in political activity, and the Ministry of Justice simply wants to take revenge for the defeat in court in another case. The "Rakurs" leader told about it in an interview to «7x7».
Photo: Alexander Borisov
— How and from whom did you learn that your organization was included in the list of foreign agents?
— My friends sent me a link to this register yesterday, then the information appeared in several online media. They gave me a link to "Echo of Moscow", then to "TASS" and so on.
— With what do you associate the inclusion of the organization in the registry?
— It was a result of their check, which continued from November 5 to December 2. It was planned. We provided the documents on our activities. And, according to the lawyer of our organization, they requested such documents as applications in the funds, which are not checked usually. The inspection was very focused on fundraising of the organization: our applications, our agreements with donors and partners, estimates, projects realizations, project reports. It seemed like everything else was checked for the sake of appearance. As a result, we were handed the act, in which almost 80 pages contained all sorts of stories about the fact that I supported Nikolai Alekseev [LGBT activist]. He came to Arkhangelsk. We had nothing to do with this. He didn’t address any organization, nor me. He carried out some kind of activity in order to sue under the law banning promotion of homosexuality. They didn’t connect with us. But these facts have been also in the act as our political activity. They gathered all that they could. Gay pickets and these pickets were not connected with the activities of the organization. Everything there. There is a feeling that the Ministry of Justice has been collecting all the small things around the world on this topic for many years, and now we have become agents.
— What are you going to do?
— Of course, we will sue. We won’t leave it like this.
— What word do you call your activity?
— Our organization is engaged in socio-psychological and legal support for the LGBT community. It is written in the title, it is reflected in the organization's charter, which has been operating for seven years. All these years we have supported a community of people for whom it was quite hard to live. And their life is deteriorating due to homophobic policy. We have a community center, where people come. We provide advisory services, training and so on. In my opinion, it is impossible to call us political organization. Let me remind you that the law against the promotion of homosexuality among minors is was adopted in Arkhangelsk first. I sued to repeal the law. I believe that this activity can be called advocacy. That's too bad when the state attacks, driving the LGBT community in basements, back in the closet. The state actually shows that LGBT are second-class people, people who can’t be mentioned anywhere, people who are not equal with other citizens. It is clear that our organization has a particular point of view on this subject. Of course, we have tried to prove the discriminatory nature of this regional law in court. It didn’t work out. And, perhaps, this is the only form that can be called the interaction with the state.
— After "Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg" was attempted to be declared foreign agents recently, there was heated discussion of this situation in the media and society. To some extent this has helped to remove the stigma of foreign agents of the organization. Do you think, in all honesty, that you can succeed and fight back the way "Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg" did it?
— I really hope that the court will obey the reasons of conscience and will look at all this pseudo-facts and citing other people's booklets in the act, which should only be referred to our organization, and, quite possibly, the court will be on our side. Especially, Putin spoke about the fact that they crossed the line with foreign agents. May be, but it’s not the fact. I think that the Ministry of Justice will be set firmly, because we had already won one court, and it's revenge. I think that there is also a regional specificity. In 2010 we changed the charter and name of the organization, and the Ministry of Justice didn’t want to register us this way. And we won only the second instance court. Now I think they will try to close us by all means. Especially a man who supported our organization has been fired from his job in the summer. It was loud. A woman was fired from the university after being denounced. FSB has been there for a long time. The Ministry of Justice didn’t just come and said, "Aha! That's what they do here!". No. From the beginning it was all planned to destroy "Rakurs" or to greatly complicate our lives. It is clear that we will probably not be able to work with the label of "foreign agent". We don’t have much faith. But it’s necessary to use all the legal mechanisms. But I don’t believe in fact that there will be a lot of noise in the press and they will suddenly withdraw [their decision].
Maxim Polyakov, «7x7»