The above video is difficult to watch, which is pretty much the point. It was released by Human Rights Watch today, three days before the Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi, and documents the brutal physical violence and discrimination carried out against the LGBTQ community in Russia by vigilante groups while the government willfully turns a blind eye.
The footage, according to HRW, was actually taken by the aggressors, who often post the clips online to further humiliate their victims. “By turning a blind eye to hateful homophobic rhetoric and violence, Russian authorities are sending a dangerous message as the world is about to arrive on its doorstep for the Olympics that there is nothing wrong with attacks on gay people,” Tanya Cooper, a Russia researcher for the group, said in a statement.
Speaking earlier this month, you may remember, Vladimir Putin half-heartedly tried to allay fears of such violence against gays and lesbians attending the games, saying they “can feel calm and at ease”—before absurdly adding: “Just leave kids alone, please.”
Elsewhere in Slate: Mark Joseph Stern writes about the brutal, bloody horror of gay life in Putin’s Russia.