Gay Couple Flees Russia After the Government Accidentally Recognized Their Marriage

· Updated on May 28, 2018

Pavel Stotsko and Evgenii Voitsekhovskii had planned to speak with INTO on Sunday morning about their recent marriage, which was inadvertently recognized by Russian officials.

After the couple tied the knot in Copenhagen on Jan. 4, dressed in matching bowties, civil servants stamped their passports with a certification of the union. Current Russian law requires government officials to recognize marriages performed in other nations if there is nothing forbidding the nuptials in Article 14 of the Family Code.

Although same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Russia, there’s nothing in the code precluding their marriage from being recognized. The statutes prohibit people under the age of 18 from marrying, as well as forbidding incest, bigamy, and underage weddings.

Due to the legal loophole, Stotsko and Voitsekhovskii’s passports were stamped earlier this month after a brief five-minute waiting period.

But just days after making history, there was no one home Sunday to take the call.

The couple reportedly fled Russia this weekend after plainclothes officials with the government arrived at their apartment on Saturday and instructed the men to come with them. Authorities attempted to “break into” the apartment, according to the Russian LGBT Network. They allegedly shut off their phone and internet to force them out of the home after sending them threats on Facebook.

Stosko also told the independent Russian television channel TV Rain that the officialswho did not state why they wanted to enter the residencethreatened his mother.

After the men’s disappearance on Sunday, INTO contacted the LGBT Network for an update on their case. Communications Manager Svetlana Zakharova confirmed the advocacy organization had moved Stotsko and Voitsekhovskii to a “safe house.” On Monday, RUSA LGBT Founder Lyosha Gorshkov told INTO they “left Russia” in fear for their safety.

INTO has reached out to the couple for further comment and will report with updates.

Their exodus is the result of weeks of pressure from Russia to erase the previous recognition of Stotsko and Voitsekhovskii’s wedding.

After their passports were lawfully stamped by authorities, the Russian government charged the couple with “intentional damage to passports” and “negligence.” The Department of the Interior told press the men had violated Article 19.16 of the Administrative Code, which prohibits “deliberate damage to documents.”

The penalty for contravening this statute is a either a warning or a fine of up to 300 rubles (which amounts to around $5 in U.S. currency).

Stosko would later allege in a Jan. 26 Facebook post that the government had “annulled” their passports. He stated the two had not received official documentation from authorities stating the reasons for their cancellation. The Moscow resident called the actions “unacceptable” and claimed they would take the matter to court.

“The Ministry of Internal Affairs has no right to annul the passports of Russian citizens properly executed in accordance with the laws of Russia,” Stosko said at the time.

Even though the passport officials had complied with federal regulations on marriage certification, a spokesperson from the Ministry of the Interior claimed that both the worker who stamped the passport and her immediate supervisor have been terminated from their positions.

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