Vitaly Milonov, a Russian government politician notorious for anti-gay and antisemitic remarks, has found a new enemy: The Andrey Rylkov Foundation, a harm reduction organisation in Moscow.
Vitaly Milonov, a representative of Putin’s United Russia party in the State Duma, and the chairman of its Committee on Family, Women, and Children, said in an interview with Gazeta.ru that he was ready to personally intervene to jail the staff members of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation (ARF). His remarks were made after ARF announced the launch of its new project to organise a support group for sex workers in Moscow.
“This is the first step towards imprisoning the staff of this foundation. This is not a foundation, as it calls itself, but a gang, a gang. A group of persons united by the commission of criminal activity, as it is actually described by Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Therefore, I strongly recommend that these foreign agents finish this activity. Because I will personally take care of putting them all to hell. The organisation of prostitution is a criminal offence, if they openly say that they are going to organise and participate in prostitution, then they hang themselves through prostitution of an organised criminal group,” said the deputy.
The Andrey Rylkov Foundation was established in 2009 and has been one of the few organisations providing harm reduction services for people who use drugs in Moscow. They have so far reached around 3000-4000 injecting drug users with a van on the streets. Amongst other things, they provide clean needles and Naloxone kits. The organisation was listed as a “foreign agent” by the Russian government in 2016, a label they fought at the Moscow City Court. Drugreporter has produced a video about the organisation previously, please watch it below!
Mr. Milonov is known in Russia for making degrading remarks about various minorities, including LGBTQ people and Jews. He was the principal sponsor of legislation criminalising “homosexual propaganda directed toward minors”. In a BBC documentary about the crackdown on LGBTQ people in Russia, he said “a piece of shit is not dangerous, but it’s quite unpleasant to see on the streets. Homosexuality is disgusting. Homophobia is beautiful and natural.” In 2014 he accused Jews of having a 2000 year tradition to “vilify any saint”, “beginning with the appeals to crucify the Saviour.”
His threat is just the latest in the series of government attacks against civil society organisations that support vulnerable people with pragmatic, non-judgmental services. The so-called foreign agent law intended to cut these organisations off from vital international funding, scapegoat them, and isolate them within Russia. Organisations are regularly fined for minor infractions related to the law. A new way to repress activists and journalists who express their views on harm reduction is the so-called drug propaganda law, that threatens people who publish any content that advises people who use drugs about safer use.
Photo: Max Avdeev