MOSCOW (AP) – Russian film director Andrei Fenochka says his online series about queer young people is important to LGBTQ people in a country that bans gay “propaganda” among minors.

Fenochka’s “Here I Come” series, which debuted last fall, is only available to people over the age of 18 under Russian law.

Fenochka said Tuesday that Russian audiences welcomed the series, which he described as a romantic story that mixes “mystics, dreams and everyday life”.

“We have had a very positive, supportive response from young viewers as they are finally seeing this part of society being portrayed not just in English or Korean, but also in Russian,” he said. “It is important that they feel that they are not alone, that they are not isolated and that they are not forbidden. Therefore the interest is very high. “

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains widespread. In 2013, Russia passed federal law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations between minors”. The law has been widely criticized for effectively blocking any public discussion of homosexuality, while authorities have argued that it is intended to protect children’s interests.

In the predominantly Muslim-Russian province of Chechnya, human rights groups have reported that numerous men have been arrested and tortured, and some have been killed on suspicion of being gay in recent years. Kremlin-backed regional strong leader Ramzan Kadyrov from Chechnya has claimed that there are no gays in Chechnya and a government investigation has found no evidence of abuse.