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Russia gay activists to march despite ban

Published: 12:25PM Friday May 28, 2010 Source: Reuters

  • Russian flag (Source: Reuters)
    Source: Reuters

Gays and lesbians plan to defy a ban and march through the Russian capital despite fears of a police crackdown and attacks by conservative Muscovites, an activist leader said.
   
City authorities have banned the gay pride event for the past five years.
   
"We are not trying to break the law...we are just trying to defend our rights as citizens," Nikolai Alexeyev, head of the Moscow Gay Pride organisation, told journalists.
   
The group lost an appeal against Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's ban and is hoping for a last-minute reprieve from a higher court.
   
With or without permission, local and foreign activists will unfurl a large rainbow flag at the European Commission's office, which is located across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, Alexeyev said.
   
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in the early 1990s, but there is little official tolerance of any public display, and activists complain that in previous years police stood by while they were attacked by counter-protesters.
   
"I am also here still bearing the brain and eye damage from the bashing I received at Moscow Pride in 2007," British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said.
   
Amnesty International criticised Russia's intolerance toward gay rights protests in its 2010 annual report on the global state of human rights, issued on Thursday.
   
"The Moscow authorities repeatedly denied requests to hold demonstrations in support of the right to freedom of assembly, and arrested and fined dozens of people who attempted to demonstrate publicly," the report stated.
   
Alexeyev said Russian gay rights activists have brought cases against previous bans to the European Court of Human Rights and that a ruling is expected later this year.