By now you’ve all read the reports and watched the video of Hovi Star recounting his unfortunate experience at the Moscow Airport. Passport officers allegedly harassed and humiliated him, ripping up some pages of his passport in the process.
It was an unfortunate incident, but one Hovi handled like a pro. In his remarks he made it clear those officers don’t represent all of Russia — and they certainly don’t represent the country’s Eurovision 2016 act Sergey Lazarev. “I don’t take it personally,” Hovi said. “I have to tell you, I really like Sergey Lazarev, I really like his song, and I like Russia. I’ve been there many times.”
In the aftermath of the incident, some Eurovision fans have expressed concerns about Russia potentially hosting Eurovision 2017 and what that might mean for LGBT fans.
So on April 24 we caught up with Dmitry Melknikov, a Russian Eurovision fan who organises the popular Russian Eurovision Pre-Party in Moscow every year. He’s very active within the Eurovision community and you may recognise him from his carpool karaoke video with The Tolmachevy Sisters.
Dmitry expresses his sympathies over Hovi’s experience and explains that officials have requested to examine the CCTV footage from passport control. He’s confident that any wrongdoers will be punished.
He also seeks to allay fan fears about Russia potentially hosting in 2017.
He points out that the media’s coverage of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws typically ignores some other more positive realities. “We have a lot of young people now who were raised with new attitudes,” he says. “They are used to any genre or personalities in the pop culture.”
Should gay fans be concerned about potential harassment if Russia hosts Eurovision next year?
“If you go on the streets you can see everyone. And the Russian people don’t like to express their emotions,” he says. “In Moscow nobody cares about you. Everybody is busy with his own business.”
On a practical level, he believes authorities would do everything in their power to ensure a smooth Eurovision. After all, it’s wildly popular in Russia and considered a prestigious event.
“Russia is one of the most active and biggest countries in the Eurovision family,” he says, pointing out that Russia has more top three finishes than any other country.
“If Russia will host Eurovision next year, I am 100% sure that everything would be fine.”