An official letter sent to the LGBT group on 27 October congratulated them on the organisation of their most recent football tournament and addressed the participants. It read: “Dear participants of the festival,
“I am greeting you and the opening of the football festival ‘FOOTBALL ДЛЯ ВСЕХ’ organised by the Russian LGBT Sport Federation!
“The Commissioner for Human Rights sees as a priority defending the rights and freedoms of all citizens, creating an environment where all people are born to be free and equal in their dignity and rights – without any exception.
“To create an environment of ‘equal opportunity’ requires efforts from all members of the civil society, different public and noncommercial organisations and also citizens. Only together can we make significant progress towards a very needed goal – the creation of a friendly environment in our city.”
The event mentioned in the letter consisted of a women’s football tournament held in Moscow on 29 October, followed by a panel on discrimination in the game. Participants were mainly members of the LGBT sport organisation.
The letter also addressed the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which Russia will host in June next year.
“We are on the eve of a great event – the World Cup 2018, which is going to take place in 11 cities in Russia. Our common task is to do our best so that the event is free discrimination, promoting mutual respect and tolerance.
“I am sure that your Festival will make an actual contribution into the promotion campaign ‘Free and Equal’ performed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in prosperity of the ideas of a discrimination free society.” it continued.
Since her appointment in 2014, Potyaeva has addressed several issues of importance, including the prevention of torture and citizens’ complaints with regard to applying violence by representatives of the law-enforcement agencies.
Her letter is a rare sign from Russian government institutions towards the recognition of equal rights of the LGBT community since 2013, when the Russian anti-gay bill was unanimously approved by the State Duma and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.
Homophobia is still a major issue in Russian society, institutional measures and the portrayal of the LGBT community as a sign of ‘moral decay’ attributed to the ‘West’ add to the problem.
In July this year, the Russian Football Association sanctioned St.Petersburg French player Yohan Mollo for responding to homophobic abuse towards him.
The Russian LGBT Sport Federation is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation created in 2010 to bring together gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people and all those who share the value of equality in sport and see the sport as a tool for positive social changes.
On 21 October, the group joined an international movement of 100,000 people when it joined the Football People action weeks, holding a lecture and exhibition on its work and the fight against homophobia in football.