LGBT Human Rights Defender Fired From Russian University

After the adoption of state laws banning propaganda of homosexuality amongst minors LGBT Defenders working in state educational institutions have been increasingly subjected to dismissal in Russia because of their sexual orientation.

Oleg Klyuenkov a Human Rights Defender with Rakurs, a Russian NGO working with LGBT rights, was fired from his position as Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University in Archangelsk. Civil Rights Defenders is alarmed over the dismissal of Oleg Kluenkov. It is clear that he has been targeted for his involvement in the promotion of LGBT rights in Russia.

According to official documents Oleg was fired on 17 June 2014 under the pretence of repeated absences from work. Oleg’s problems started after he made a private trip to the USA in November 2013. In December the Prosecutor’s Office in Archangelsk invited Oleg for questioning regarding whether Rakurs was following necessary NGO protocols. In 2013 dozens of NGOs in Russia were subjected to similar checks. Prosecution bodies imposed high fines and demanded that NGOs register as foreign agents.

The following February, an anti-LGBT website “Anti-LGBT Arkhangelsk” accused Oleg of unauthorised and prolonged periods of absences from work. Oleg advised Civil Rights Defenders that university officials had repeatedly pressurised him to cease his involvement with Rakurs or resign from his professorship “voluntarily.” Following a complaint by the Archangelsk prosecutor’s office in April 2014 the Vice President of the university gave Oleg an official reprimand regarding unauthorised absence from work during his 10-day trip to the USA. Although Oleg’s appeal against the decision is still pending, he has now been summarily fired by the university.

“Oleg’s dismissal letter shows that the university acted on the instigation of the prosecutor’s office and the FSB who have been investigating Rakurs for months. Apparently unable to find any irregularity committed by the organisation, the prosecutor decided to target its members. The university is behaving in a cowardly manner. Oleg should be reinstated to his position immediately,” said Roemer Lemaitre, Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders.

Two other members of Rakurs, Tatyana Vinnichenko and Olga Pospelova are facing similar threats. Both work at the same university as Oleg. Tatyana told Civil Rights Defenders that several university officials have urged her to stop working as the Director of Rakurs citing that it might affect her work at the university. She has refused to quit her university position “voluntarily.” There are reports of similar cases in other Russian regions as well.

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