MOSCOW — Russian Interior Ministry Troops and Moscow Special Tactical Militia (police) arrested 34 people during an unauthorized gay pride parade in the center of the Russian capital Saturday.
Moscow police spokesman, Maxim Kolosvetov, told Russian news agencies the 18 gay activists and 16 counter-demonstrators were arrested near Manezhnaya Square and Aleksandrovsky Garden, a short distance from the Kremlin.
Kolosvetov noted that separate groups of Ultra-Orthodox Christians and anti-gay demonstrators also fought with the Gay Rights activists as well as with police and the ministry troops. According to Kolosvetov, individuals were not targeted due to their sexual-orientation.
American LGBT rights activists Andy Thayer from Chicago, and Dan Choi, from New York, were confirmed as having been arrested, along with prominent British LGBT activist Peter Tatchell and French gay rights advocate Louis-Georges Tin.
Nikolai Alexeyev, the leader of Russia’s gay rights movement, did not attend, having suffered an injury to his foot during a television debate Thursday.
Alekseev, who had organized Saturday’s protest in defiance of a ban imposed by the Moscow city authorities, told media outlets that the demonstration was aimed at connecting gay rights with the Soviet Union’s stand against Germany in World War II, which remains a cornerstone of Russian national pride.
“The demonstration ban is particularly shocking because during the Second World War, Muscovites stood against the Nazis who thought to exterminate Jews, homosexuals and Communists, but now the mayor of Moscow is colluding with new-Nazis,” said Tatchell, who has taken part in previous demonstrations in Moscow.
City officials denied gay rights activists permission to stage a parade on May 28, referring to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of November 4, 1950, which states that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly can be restricted in the interests of public order and protection of the rights and freedoms of other people.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in post-Soviet Russia, anti-gay sentiment is high and Russian authorities justify the bans on the grounds of trying to prevent fights.
Activists also tried to hold a demonstration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin and later outside the mayor’s office.