Shocking footage of violent Russian groups that target gay men and lesbian women reveal the dangerous levels of homophobia in the country as it prepares to host the Sochi Winter Olympics this week.
A new UK documentary to be broadcast on the Channel 4 series Dispatches this week reveals for the first time the violent intimidation meted out to gay and lesbian people in Russia by hate groups Occupy Paedophilia and Parents of Russia.
The Hunted, which will be shown on Wednesday at 10pm, shows how gangs use the internet to lure potential victims to meetings, where they are forced to perform humiliating acts under the threat of violence.
In one scene, Parents of Russia member Timur Isav attends a gay and lesbian event and hands out bags containing lengths of rope, suggesting that attendees commit suicide.
Investigative journalist Liz Mackean, who travelled to Russia to make the film for Channel 4, said: "We filmed these groups with their knowledge, and what I found shocking afterwards was that only a few asked to have their faces disguised. They all believe they are doing the right thing.
"Occupy Paedophilia has groups in more than 30 cities. They operate with impunity and under the cover of the remarks [Vladimir] Putin has made suggesting that children are at risk from homosexuals."
Tom Porter, the commissioning editor of the documentary, told The Guardian that Occupy Paedophilia deliberately blurs the lines between paedophilia and homosexuality.
"During one of the filmed incidents of humiliation, the group asked our cameraman and director Ben Steele to stop filming but he continued partly because he was concerned that if he stopped there would be violence," he said.
Mackean said the gay Russians she interviewed were against a boycott of the Sochi Olympic Games because they feared it would cause an increase in reprisals.
Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of gay sports magazine OutSports told IBTimes UK: "The real threat to LGBT people attending the Olympics has never been the International Olympic Commitee or the Russian government, it's these anti-gay gangs that run free in Russia.
"The Russian government allows them to hunt, torture and kill LGBT people with no repercussion from the police. Forget about repealing anti-gay laws in Russia, that's not going to happen any time soon. We should be focusing on pushing the Russians to simply crack down on these illegal groups. That alone would be a huge step."
International human rights groups have called for a worldwide day of peaceful protest on Wednesday as part of a Global Speak Out event in support of Russian LGBT people.
Watch a trailer for Channel 4's documentary The Hunted below: