Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia—Vitaly’s nightmare began last Thursday morning when he read a news article on the website of TASS, the Russian news agency. It said that the Investigative Committee, a powerful law enforcement agency, planned a number of arrests of single gay fathers with babies from surrogate mothers. The worst nightmare of Russian LGBTQ parents—police taking children away and placing them in orphanages—was coming true. To Vitaly, a 40-year-old IT specialist, it meant one thing: hit the road, run.

The agency targeted men like him, who had babies born via in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. The TASS article said that the Investigative Committee had targeted 10 Russian single dads of “untraditional sexual orientation,” and planned to arrest them for “baby trade.”

A few hours after he read the TASS article, Vitaly, who asked to change even his first name to protect his safety, had a brainstorming meeting…

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