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Aeroflot forces gay flight attendant to marry woman

Activists call for boycott of Russian airline after LGBT staff rights activist Maxim Kupreev forced to wed
Maxim Kupreev founded the first LGBT group in Aeroflot but has now been forced to marry.
Photo courtesy of GayRussia.eu.

Gay activists in Russia are planning to ask air passengers to boycott Aeroflot, Russia’s leading airline and not to use its services until the creation of equal conditions for all workers.

The call comes following the revelation that gay flight attendant Maxim Kupreev was forced by his employers to enter into heterosexual marriage with his former high school girlfriend following his announcement last year to create an LGBT group within the company to fight for the protection of the rights of homosexual employees.

The boycott is set to be launched on 9 February at a rally outside the head office of Aeroflot on Arbat Streetin Moscow.

‘We have already worked out a number of slogans which underline a double meaning of the word "marriage" in Russian which we are going to communicate with the public in the context of Aeroflot’s activities,’ Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, told Gay Star News.

The Russian for ‘marriage’ is ‘brak’, and it also means ‘defect’.

Protesters will be asking the public to defect from the airline, he said.

According to internal Aeroflot sources reported by GayRussia.eu, 25-year-old flight attendant Maxim Kupreev was given an ultimatum late last year to enter into heterosexual marriage or to lose his job. At the end of 2011 he married his school friend Sofia Mikhailova who got the right to fly Aeroflot for 10% of the fare – and other company privileges.

In order to register marriage with Kupreev, Mikhailova had to dissolve her real marriage to Grigoriy Andreykin. The divorce was finalised on 11 October last year.

‘Aeroflot effectively broke a real marriage and created a sham one,’ Alekseev said.

The creation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group in Aeroflot was announced on 20 June 2011. At this time, Kupreev, the founder of the group said it would fight for the direct inclusion of discrimination ban on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity into internal documents of Aeroflot. His group also planned to fight for the recognition of same-sex partners of the employees.

The next day the official spokesperson of the airline, Irina Dannenberg, told the French news agency AFP that there was no LGBT group in her company. According to her, ‘one should separate personal and professional life,’ AFP reported.

Kupreev himself told to AFP in June that he had already started to face pressure from the airline management. ‘They are already trying to silence us,’ he told the news agency.

In July 2011 gay activists tried to picket the central office of Aeroflot in support of the first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group in the major Russian company and to denounce the pressure on its founders.

But the Moscow authorities banned the event over ‘security concerns’. And the organisers of the picket, who planned to defy the ban, cancelled the event at the request of Kupreev.

Both the Taganskiy District Court and the Moscow City Court later ruled that the ban was lawful. This decision last year is expected to be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

On Friday (27 January) Moscow Pride activists officially notified Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin about their intention to conduct a rally on 9 February, the 89th anniversary of the creation of civil aviation in Russia and birthday of Aeroflot.

They plan to condemn discrimination policy of the state owned airline against homosexual workers and will demand dismissal of Aeroflot from the global airline alliance, Sky Team, which is led by Air France-KLM and includes American carrier Delta.

The reply of Moscow government to the notification of gay activists concerning the rally is expected next week. But organisers have already said that they will conduct the event irrespective of the authorities’ decision.

It has become a routine practice for Moscow authorities to ban all public events of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Despite the ruling of the European Court in the case of Alekseyev v Russia concerning the illegal bans of Moscow Prides in 2006 to 2008, Moscow authorities banned the pride again in May 2011.

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