Charity calendars featuring naked pictures of a university rowing team have been banned from Russia.
Authorities in Russia sent back the Warwick Rowers calendars destined for Russian fans. The university rowing club website was also victim of a cyber attack directed from Russia, the club claimed.
The Warwick Rowers have fans across the world, including celebrities like Sir Ian McKellen and Kylie Minogue, after a series of cheeky calendars which raise cash for LGBT+ charities.
However, Russian customs officials blocked all calendars entering the country after a clampdown on gay rights and enforcement of a 2013 law banning ‘gay propaganda’.
Warwick Rowers founder and LGBT+ rights campaigner Angus Malcolm said: ‘My heart goes out to the Rowers’ Russian fans, who are increasingly subjected to acts of hatred and discrimination that shouldn’t be tolerated in any society anywhere across the globe.
‘The fact Russian customs rejected our calendar is nothing compared to the suffering some LGBT+ people face every day, but it acts as a signifier of the wider problem.’
He added: ‘If they can’t cope with a few naked bums, then frankly that’s quite sad.
‘Putin is promoting precisely the kind of toxic masculinity that Sport Allies and the Warwick Rowers want to challenge.
‘Homophobia is a core part of it, and we are now seeing LGBT soccer fans being advised to avoid displays of affection at next year’s World Cup. With the rise of Putin’s brand of populism around the world, we have never needed straight allies like the Warwick Rowers more than we do now.’
The Warwick Rowers first released a calendar in 2009 to raise funds for the university boat club which raised £300, last year the calendar raised a six-figure sum.
The amount of money raised in the last eight years has led to the foundation of Sport Allies, a charity which wants to bring an end to all homophobia in sports.