MOSCOW — Gay-rights campaigners and their opponents clashed at an unsanctioned rally in the Russian capital on Saturday, but a heavy police presence in Ukraine kept the two sides apart at that country’s first-ever gay pride march.
Russian police said they arrested at least 30 gay rights campaigners and Christian Orthodox vigilantes in Moscow.
The campaigners tried to unfurl banners denouncing Kremlin-backed anti-gay legislation in front of Russia‘s lower house of parliament, but they were attacked by vigilantes carrying religious icons and crosses.
Russia’s lower house in January voted in favor of a bill that makes public events and dissemination of information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors punishable by fines of up to $16,000.
The bill, still awaiting final approval, is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and church see as corrupting Russian youth and contributing to a wave of protest against President Vladimir Putin‘s rule.
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia remains strong in the country. Government critics and gay rights activists claim that the Kremlin and the powerful Orthodox Church encourage vigilante groups to attack gay rallies and parades.
In Kiev, between 50 and 100 gay rights activists staged the ex-Soviet nation’s first-ever gay pride parade. They held banners reading “Homosexuality is no disease” and “Human rights are my pride.”
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