Russian LGBT family from Vkusvill ad leaves country after death threats

by Reuters
Wednesday, 4 August 2021 15:08 GMT

A logo of Russian food retailer VkusVill is seen on a store in Moscow, Russia July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Image Caption and Rights Information
The family appeared in an advert for Russian grocery store Vkusvill (ВкусВилл) which was taken down in the midst of homophobic abuse online

MOSCOW, Aug 4 (Reuters) - A Russian family with gay members that featured in an advert for a high-end food retailer has left the country after receiving hateful homophobic messages online including death threats.

Footage published by journalist and YouTuber Karen Shainyan showed the family, in which the mother, Yuma, and her adult daughter, Alina, both have female partners, boarding a flight and leaving the country.

Shainyan, who discusses LGBT issues on his channel, said he had agreed to broadcast an interview with the family only once they were outside Russia.

A 2013 Russian law, decried by Western countries as state-enforced bigotry, bans the "promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors". Many politicians from the ruling party are stridently anti-gay.

Food retailer Vkusvill's advert pictured the four women from the family in a kitchen, and said they liked the shop's Japanese rice balls with mushrooms and its humus. It initially appeared with an "18+" warning indicating it should not be read by children.

The advert was later taken down, angering both gay rights campaigners and opponents.

Yuma, the head of the family, said she could ignore messages from "haters", but that comments online directed at her eight-year-old granddaughter had scared her.

"I was just knocked back by comments to my granddaughter, where some people wrote that they want to rape her, to kill her, to stab a child who is just sitting and smiling in the photograph," she told Shainyan.

"I'm most afraid for my granddaughter."

Vkusvill declined to comment on the family's departure from Russia.

"Comments are just the tip of the iceberg," said Yuma, who described previous homophobic attacks where she had been doused with chemicals by masked thugs and targeted by crowds threatening to stab her and set her on fire.

"I don't want that to happen, I want to protect my family," she said. "I don't want to live like that. I'm tired."

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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