Moscow Police Detains Gay Activists
Wednesday, June 27, 2007; 1:59 PM
MOSCOW -- Police blocked gay rights activists from holding a demonstration in the capital Wednesday and detained two of them despite the protest being authorized by city authorities.
The approximately two dozen activists aimed to hold the rally outside the European Union's representative office in Moscow to demand that the EU impose a visa ban on Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has banned gay rights parades and called homosexuality "satanic."
Although the planned demonstration had been sanctioned, police said they decided to block it because it would interfere with construction taking place nearby.
"Authorities in Moscow have broken the law again by not allowing our picket," said activist Alexey Davydov.
Demonstrators tried to unfurl a banner, but police dispersed them, grabbing Davydov and another demonstrator and forcing them into a police bus.
A group of gay rights opponents stood nearby, but did not interfere.
"There must be no propaganda of sexual perversions in Russia, especially if it is Western-funded," said Mikhail Sinitsyn, leader of the nationalistic People's Union youth movement.
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but opposition to gay rights remains strong and frequently turns violent.
In May, police detained gay rights activists, including two European lawmakers, as they tried to hold a demonstration in downtown Moscow while members of a hostile crowd punched the activists and pelted them with eggs.
Homosexuality is denounced by the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, and President Vladimir Putin in his annual news conference implied gays were undermining the country by not having children.