The mountaineers hoist the rainbow flag on Vladimir Putin Peak
The mountaineers hoist the rainbow flag on Vladimir Putin Peak (Photo: Supplied)

A group of queer mountaineers recently planted a rainbow flag and a Ukraine flag on Vladimir Putin Peak. The rocky landmark, named after the Russian leader in 2011, lies in the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan.

The group say it’s an act of protest against Putin’s “homo- and transphobic, imperial and neo-colonial regime.”

Related: Gay dating app asks users to help Ukrainians and is blown away by response

Dastan Kasmamytov of Pink Summits on Vladimir Putin Peak
Dastan Kasmamytov of Pink Summits on Vladimir Putin Peak (Photo: Pink Summits)

Pink Summits

The team responsible are part of the wider Pink Summits visibility campaign. As profiled on our sister site, GayCities, last year, the campaign’s aim is for mountaineers to carry a rainbow flag to the highest mountains of each continent, including Everest (the so-called Seven Summits).

Last year, climbers took photos of themselves waving a rainbow flag at the top of Mont Blanc in the Alps.

The initiative began in August 2018, when the Pink Summits team climbed Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Gay climbers at the top of Mont Blanc (Photo: Supplied)
At the top of Mont Blanc (Photo: Supplied)

While trying to cross the state border between Georgia and Russia, the latter’s secret services—the FSB—stopped and interrogated them.

Dastan Kasmamytov, who grew up in Kyrgyzstan and is the founder of Pink Summits, told GayCities about the experience.

“I am sure they googled my last name beforehand and were asking very personal questions. They were also making homophobic and sexist jokes. I also had to delete all gay content on my cell phone, afraid of them checking the contents.”

Authorities detained him and a fellow climber for around six hours and then thankfully allowed them to continue their journey.

He and his companions have also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia.

At the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa (Photo: Pink Summits)
At the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa (Photo: Pink Summits)

Besides carrying flags, the mountaineers document their journey, share their experiences, fundraise for local LGBTQ+ organizations and queer victims of violence, and offer youth mentorship across the globe.

Dastan says that besides scaling Vladimir Putin Peak, he and the other climbers, together with the local LGBT+ organization Kyrgyz Indigo, organized a small Pride event in Chunkurchak. They taught some members of the local LGBTQ community the basics of rock climbing.

Russia cracks down further on LGBTQ communities

The group’s ascent of Putin Peak took place August 7, but they circulated photos this week to coincide with disturbing news out of Russia.

On Thursday, Russian lawmakers voted to expand the country’s anti-LGBTQ propaganda law. Introduced in 2013, the law banned the promotion of “non-traditional” families to minors. In effect, it banned Pride marches and LGBTQ representation on TV or in books that might be seen by kids.

However, yesterday lawmakers voted unanimously to expand the ban to all ages. The bill passed its first reading in the lower house State Duma. Experts expect it to sail through its other stages.

Related: Activists put pride flags on government buildings in Russia for Putin’s birthday

Russian citizens found guilty of breaking the law face fines of up to 400,000 roubles ($6,500) for promoting “LGBT propaganda”. Lawmakers call any promotion of gay rights to be “Un-Russian.”

The country recently fined TikTok approximately $49,000 for not censoring “videos with LGBT themes.”

Dastan told Queerty that he feared no advance in LGBTQ rights will be possible while President Putin remains in power. He also pointed out that what happens in Russia can impact the countries within its orbit.

“[Russia] exercise its influence onto many Russian-speaking countries, including Kyrgyzstan, my homeland. In fact, a lot of laws and policies are then copied by our own law-makers, inspired by the ultra-conservative regime in Russia. This almost happened with Kyrgyzstan’s anti-propaganda law bill in 2014-2015. I fear that this will happen again.”

Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated