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Russia’s gay community do not feel welcome in their own country

It’s not Elton John, so presumably it doesn’t meet with Vladimir Putin’s personal approval.

Still, almost within earshot of his Kremlin, Moscow’s gay scene, in all its camp glory, is in fine voice.

It’s cabaret night at the Ice Club, tucked away round the back of one of the city’s plush shopping streets, close to the Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo stores.

On a night of sub-zero temperatures there’s a warm welcome, even for uninvited visitors from London.

Until we ask permission to film.

Two men, a moment before drinking happily at the bar, refuse - with some passion - to let us show their faces.

"For you this is just a job. For us it is our life and it is dangerous. After you leave, we stay", says one of them.

It’s the same in two more sub-terranean bars we visit.

You soon discover this is an underground scene, literally and metaphorically.

Maxim, a bar manager, tells me: "Here people come to be themselves, the way they can’t be at work or in the streets.’’

No wonder. The streets can be hazardous.

Twice last year, Mark Golytzynski , 32, was attacked outside a club. The second time, so severely he thought he would die.

Mark Golytzynski was beaten up twice outside gay clubs in Moscow Credit: ITV News

"All that went through my head was that this is the end of me. No more", he says of the terrifying moments he was beaten with a metal bar and kicked unconscious.

Mark is little more than five feet tall but his attackers were interrupted and he lived.

But then came a second assault. This time from the legal system.

"The police came to see me and said there would be no investigation", he says.

"Even after I filed an official complaint, they took no action.’’

The indifference seems to be reflected and amplified in a new law that bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors.

Many activists believe the legislation is so loosely written it will outlaw any kind of demonstration in favour of gay rights.

So in the run of to Sochi, Vladimir Putin tried to reassure the world that Russia would welcome gays for the games.

Then he added: "Just stay away from the kids, please."

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: TT News Agency

The implication that homosexuals would prey on children is hardly what an anxious western world wanted to hear.

Still it doesn’t surprise Russia’s gay community, who don’t feel welcome in their own country.

"They think we have disease, that we all have Aids", Vlada Volnovskaya tells me.

At least in sport, Vlada discovered a great liberating force.

She’s not quite Olympic standard, but at badminton she has competed in lesbian and gay games.

Vlada Volnovskaya has faced discrimination because of her sexuality Credit: ITV News

Last year she won a medal and made the inside pages of a local newspaper.

Then her bosses found out and soon she lost her job.Vlada is convinced her dismissal is down to her sexuality.

So I ask her if she thinks gay competitors should boycott Sochi.

"No" she replies. "They should use it to show we are the same. We play the same games, we have the same problems, we are open to be friends with everybody.’’

It’s just that most Russians don’t want to be friends in return.

And that seems to go for President Putin too, despite his professed regard for Elton John.