Police break up gay rally in Russian capital

Associated Press

MOSCOW — Police dispersed a gay rally Tuesday, Sept. 21 and detained at least a dozen protesters in the Russian capital.

The two dozen demonstrators had been protesting the policies of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called homosexuals “satanic” and thwarted attempts to hold a gay pride rally in the city.

Police detained most, if not all, of those participating in Tuesday’s rally, which was held without a required permit near city hall.

The activists handcuffed themselves to a monument for the 13th-century Russian prince who founded Moscow, displayed a papier-mache mummy resembling Luzhkov and unfurled posters ridiculing the mayor and his billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina.

The activists said they objected to Luzhkov’s recent use of the word “fag,” and a court’s subsequent ruling that the word could not be deemed offensive.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay feelings remain strong. The country’s dominant Orthodox Church condemns gay lifestyle, and Orthodox activists have participated in dispersing previous gay rallies.

Activist Nikolai Alexeyev said in a telephone interview from inside a police van that he knew Tuesday’s rally would not be allowed.

“I had no hope it would end peacefully,” he said. “This lawlessness will go on as long as this lowlife rules the city.”

Luzhkov has been under increasingly strong pressure to resign in recent weeks, and a string of television shows on national television criticized him and his wife for alleged corruption and cronyism.

Last week, Alexeyev claimed he was kidnapped from a Moscow airport and held for more than two days by men he alleged were security agents.

Russian officials were not available for comment.

—  John Wright

Russian gay activist says he was seized by agents

Nikolai Alexeyev safe in Moscow after he says agents abducted him at the airport last week, demanded that he drop human rights complaints

JIM HEINTZ  |  Associated Press

MOSCOW — A prominent Russian gay rights activist who vanished from a Moscow airport last week said Saturday, Sept. 18 that he was back in the capital after being held for more than two days by men he believes were state security agents.

The disappearance of Nikolai Alexeyev from Domodedovo Airport sparked concern in Western Europe, with the French Foreign Ministry publicly calling on Russia to respect his freedom of movement and a German parliamentarian saying that country’s diplomats were working for his release.

Alexeyev is widely known in the international gay rights movement for his repeated efforts to organize parades in Moscow. The city, whose mayor Yuri Luzhkov has publicly called homosexuals “satanic,” routinely bans the gatherings, most of which are harshly dispersed by police within minutes.

Alexeyev told The Associated Press by telephone on Saturday that he was heading to board a Geneva-bound plane on Wednesday, but was stopped by airport officials after passing through passport and security control and told his baggage needed further inspection. He said he was taken to a small office and that the officials told a Swiss Airlines representative to offload Alexeyev’s checked baggage.

Swiss spokeswoman Andrea Kreuzer said the company was informed Alexeyev hadn’t properly passed security checks. The state news agency ITAR-Tass on Friday quoted a Domodedovo official as saying Alexeyev had been detained after refusing to remove his footwear at the security check.

Thereafter, he said, he was spirited out of the airport by four men who were not in uniform and didn’t identify themselves and was driven to a police station in the city of Kashira, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the airport.

Once there, the men insulted him, using “all the slang words for homosexuals in the dictionary” and demanded he withdraw suits he had filed with the European Court of Human Rights protesting Moscow’s banning of gay rights rallies.

The men also confiscated his cellular telephone, he said.

Russia’s Interfax news agency on Friday reported that it had received text messages from Alexeyev’s phone claiming he was seeking political asylum in Belarus and withdrawing the European court suits. Alexeyev said the texts were sent after his phone was seized.

The next night he was taken to Tula, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Moscow, and by this time “I really thought something bad was going to happen; it was really frightening,” he said.

But the men took him to the outskirts of the city around dawn on Saturday and released him, after which he made his way by bus to Moscow.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay feelings remain strong.

Moscow’s bans on gay rallies and Luzhkov’s comments have drawn wide criticism from abroad.

Gay activists have announced plans to rally outside the mayor’s office on Tuesday, Sept. 21 to protest his recent use of the word “fag,” which a court subsequently ruled could not be deemed offensive.

Luzhkov, who has been under increasingly strong pressure to resign in recent months, unexpectedly announced Saturday that he would take vacation next week in Austria and the state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a Kremlin source as saying “he needs time to think.”

—  John Wright

Moscow mayor is at it again

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has once again delcared that there will be no gay Pride parade in his city, calling such events “satanic.”

AFP News Service reports that Luzhkov told an education conference, “A gay parade… cannot be called anything but a Satanic act. We haven’t permitted such a parade and we won’t permit it in the future.”

Luzhkov first linked gay Pride with Satan back in 2007, leading LGBT rights activists there to sue him — unsuccessfully — for libel. This time around, Luzhkov also called for gay Pride marchers to be punished: “It’s high time that we stop propagating nonsense discussions about human rights, and bring to bear on them the full force and justice of the law.”

Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev said Pride organizers are going ahead with their plans, despite Luzhkov’s declarations. Alexeyev said, “”We don’t plan to make any changes. We still plan to hold a gay parade on May 29.”

—  admin