Following Russia’s introduction of draconian new anti-gay laws, bars around the world – and Yorkshire – are showing solidarity with Russia’s queerfolk by boycotting the country’s exports – most notably vodka.
In the run-up to Leeds LGBT Pride, The New Penny, The Bridge Inn, Blayds Bar and other bars are refusing to stock Russian vodka. In an article in The Yorkshire Evening Post, Thomas Wales, the editor of gayleeds.co.uk, said: ‘Russian lawmakers have recently put into place laws that discriminate against the LGBT. Although removing the lines of vodka won’t make a massive dint in the Russian economy. It will, however, prove that the LGBT bars in our city care about opposing the persecution of the gay community in Russia. Little changes can make a big difference and help to make sure that we don’t go backwards on equal rights.’
US writer, Dan Savage, called for the boycott in July, and queer communities around the world have been quick to support him. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, signed a law in July which bans same-sex couples in foreign countries from adopting
Russian children, and last month the country introduced a law imposing jail terms for people promoting homosexual ‘propaganda’ to minors. And dozens were arrested at gay rights protests that the authorities had refused permission for. In June, three men in the region of Kamchatka were suspected of kicking and stabbing their neighbour to death because he was gay. The murder came less than a month after a 23-year-old man was beaten to death and sodomised with beer bottles in an apparent homophobic attack in the southern city of Volgograd. Stolichnaya, one of the most famous vodka brands, has responded with an open letter condemning the ‘dreadful ac- tions taken by the Russian government’. Val Mendeleev, chief executive of the SPI Group, which owns the brand, said: ‘Stolichnaya vodka has always been, and continues to be, a fervent supporter of the LGBT community.’
He said that the Russian government had no control or ownership over the brand, which originated in Russia but is now headquartered in Luxembourg, and added: ‘We also thank the community for having adopted Stoli as their vodka of preference.’