Bisexual Russian activist fears for her safety after British authorities threaten to deport her

Irina Putilova could be returned home in a matter of days

A woman who is detained in Britain could be sent back to Russia in a matter of days despite claiming that her life is in danger in her home country.

Irina Putilova, a 28-year-old bisexual activist, left St Petersburg six months ago, after fearing for her safety. Ms Putilova, who is involved with a number of gender equality and anti-authoritarian movements in Russia, says she was been followed, threatened, arrested and beaten up by the Russian police for her activism.

Since living in Hackney, London, she has been involved in raising awareness about LGBTQ-rights in Russia. She added that Russia's new anti-gay legislation, which criminalises the promotion of non-heterosexual relationships, had increased homophobic violence in her country to the point where she no longer feels safe to return.

“It is very difficult to be LGBTQ there because of this law. I don't feel safe, free or comfortable to be myself. Because of this, and the rest of my activism, I think my life could be in danger,” she told The Independent from Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, where she is being detained as part of a tougher fast-track asylum process.

“The law means all public activity is very limited: you can't even go and watch a LGBTQ movie. People who are against [gay rights] are spreading a lot of anti-LGBTQ propaganda and it's impossible to be public [with your partner]. Two girls were arrested for hugging earlier this year. It's crazy. It's totally impossible for me and I don't feel safe.”

Ms Putilova said she fears persecution from Russian police and right-wing groups, if she returns to Russia. She said police went to her parents' home seeking information about her, threatened to break her legs, and put her on a federal warrant list – meaning it is likely she will be arrested if she returns home. She was detained on Friday, after attending her first asylum appointment.

More than 5,000 people, including Stephen Fry, have already signed an online petition asking the Home Secretary to release Putilova from detention. Stephen Fry tweeted his support for the case this morning. “I’ve just signed this important petition for Irina Putilova, Russian LGBTQ activist in detention in UK,” he tweeted, along with the hashtag "iramuststay".

Ms Putilova's solicitor, Milla Walker of Luqmani Thompson & Partners, said: “On the face of it, this case seems inappropriate for the fast-track. That is only suitable if the Home Office can reach a fair and quick decision and if the case is straightforward and simple, with no documents needed to be produced, translated, and no corroborative evidence required. This case is very complex; there are lots of documents – some of which still haven't arrived - and they are in Russian. If the Home Office doesn't remove the case from the fast-track, we are considering appealing to the High Court.”

Activist Peter Tatchell also supports Ms Putilova's case. He said: 'It is outrageous that Irina, or any refugee, is put into fast-track and detained in prison-like conditions. She is not being given enough time to prepare a proper asylum claim. Given that she has already been subjected to sustained harassment and threats, it is unsafe for Irina to return to Russia.”

Ms Putilova added: “I want them to release me, to give me a chance, and let me undergo the normal procedure of asylum.”

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the department does not routinely comment on individual cases.

With just weeks to go before the Sochi winter Olympics, the issue of gay rights has taken centre stage, especially among athletes and supporters. And those in other fields have also voiced concern: Speaking in this week’s Radio Times, Sir Ian McKellen said that the Foreign Office had personally advised him against travelling to Russia.

He said: “Imagine trying to be a gay actor, a gay anything in modern Russia? Where to be positively oneself, to be affectionate in public with someone you love of the same gender, or to talk of that love in the hearing of anyone under 18, will put you prison? That’s why I can’t go to Russia. I’ve been advised by the Foreign Office. They couldn’t protect me from those laws. Two and a half hours from London! In the land of Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev, Rudolf Nureyev – gay artists whose sexuality informed their work."

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
News
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style