Russian gays to hold parade on Eurovision final

Posted on 07 May 2009 at 5:34pm
By Peter Leonard Associated Press

Alexeyev, others say they will march even without permission, despite threat of jail time, fines

MOSCOW — Russian gay rights activists announced plans Tuesday, May 5 to hold a parade hours before this month’s finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, potentially setting the stage for a confrontation with city authorities and extremists.

Moscow’s government has prohibited gay rights marches in the past and Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has drawn international criticism by describing homosexuality as "satanic."

Russian gay rights movement leader Nikolai Alexeyev said he hoped 500 people would join a parade passing through central Moscow.

He said he asked city authorities Tuesday for permission to hold the parade — dubbed Slavic Pride — but added that 100 activists would risk prosecution and march even if it was refused.

City Hall has rejected repeated requests by public organizations to draw attention to gay rights with parades over the past four years, Alexeyev said.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but opposition to gay rights remains widespread.

In 2006, gay activists trying to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin wall were arrested by riot police and harangued by religious and ultranationalist group members.

Last year, at least one gay rights activist was assaulted during a small protest in Moscow while uniformed police officers stood by and watched.

Police expect up to 5,000 visitors to travel to Moscow for the Eurovision competition, which culminates on May 16. Russia won the right to host Eurovision after winning last year’s competition.

Activists say the event is an opportunity to highlight what they describe as official discrimination against sexual minorities.

"On the day of Eurovision, we want this issue to clearly raised at the international level," Alexeyev said.

Moscow City Hall spokesman Leonid Krutakov was unable to confirm that march organizers had submitted a request, but said the decision on the parade would be taken by Luzhkov.

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