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Russia dislikes Apple’s same-sex emoji couples as much as it hates the real thing

By Corinne Purtill

Following previous campaigns against the Eurovision Song Contest, Lady Gaga, and Game of Thrones, anti-gay lawmakers in Russia are targeting a new cultural threat: same-sex emoji couples.

Police in the Kirov region are investigating whether the tiny yellow couples present in Apple’s built-in iOS keyboard pose a violation of the country’s widely-criticized law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” The broadly-worded 2013 legislation has been used to arrest and detain peaceful demonstrators of LGBT rights.

The offending emoji.

The emoji suit was launched in August by Yaroslav Mikhailov, a Kirov attorney who previously made international headlines for instigating a police investigation into an opposition journalist who posted an Instagram photo of herself dressed up as an Orthodox priest. Mikhailov brought the emojis to the attention of his local police force, who agreed to open an official investigation, according to local news site Gazeta.ru.

If found in violation of the law, Apple could face fines of 800,000 to 1 million rubles ($12,200-15,250) and a three-month suspension in Russia.

Russia’s political elite have a complicated relationship with Apple, often railing against the company as a standard-bearer of Western cultural hegemony even while being photographed using its products. Last year, St. Petersburg city council member Vitaly Milonov suggested barring CEO Tim Cook from Russia for life because he is gay.