Activists to protest against Moscow’s homophobic Mayor

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Gay rights activists in Russia are planning to stage a protest against the Mayor of Moscow’s opposition to LGBT Pride events when he visits Paris next month.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who banned two gay pride parades in 2006 and 2007 and seems likely to ban the third pride on 31 May this year, is going to be in Paris to take part in the M4 meeting (a summit of Paris, Berlin, London and Moscow Mayors) which will take place on 18-19 February in Paris City Hall.

He is on record as claiming he will never allow a gay parade to take place in Moscow, and has called gay people ‘Satanic.’

The Organisational Committee of Moscow Pride, LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru and Russian Movement “LGBT Rights” are planning to organise a protest action against the visit and policies of the Mayor during his stay in Paris.

The organising committee of Moscow Gay Pride officially revealed last week that they will attempt to hold this year’s Moscow Pride on May 30 and 31. It will be the third Pride in the Russian capital.

A march in central Moscow, in support of tolerance and respect for the rights and freedoms of homosexual people in Russia, is set for Saturday May 31.

Plans to stage marches in the previous two Gay Prides have been blocked by Mayor Luzhkov.

According to GayRussia, internal sources of the Interfax news agency within Moscow City Hall are hinting that the mayor is unlikely to change his opinion of the Gay Pride – and will again ban it.

The march will act as a finale to the two-day event, which will feature an international human rights conference, with Russian and foreign politicians and activists participating.

“Each year, our movement is getting bigger, and not only in terms of organisers but also in terms of participants,” Moscow Pride president Nikolai Alekseev told GayRussia.

Last weekend Mr Alekseev received a hero award in Los Angeles during the International Mr Gay finals for his attempts to stage full Prides. He was arrested during both previous Prides.

“When Moscow Pride was started there were only three of us, second Pride was organised by seven people – while this year the organising committee has been increased to ten. It is a diverse group of men and women, homosexual and heterosexual.”

Mr. Alekseev said that “notification concerning the march will be sent to Moscow Mayor in accordance with Russian legislation two weeks before the event.”

“The authorities have no legal basis for banning the event,” he added.

“That is why, even if they ban it again, we will still go on the streets to realise our constitutional right to freedom of assembly.”

He said that the paperwork for the application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over last year’s ban of the Gay Pride march should be completed in early Feburary for delivery to the court.

The matter of the ban on the first march, on May 27, 2006, is already in Strasbourg and is awaiting consideration.

A 20-page application has been filed at the European Court of Human Rights regarding two separate issues: the ban by Moscow authorities of the gay pride march and the banning of the alternative Pride picket, both scheduled for May 27, 2006.

In the application, Pride organisers claim that in denying permission to stage both the march and the picket, the Russian Federation breached Article 11 (right to freedom of peaceful assembly), Article 13 (right to effective court protection) and Article 14 (discrimination ban) in conjunction with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a signatory.

Previously, the Moscow authorities have rejected requests to stage marches on the grounds that it would interfere with the rights and routines of ordinary Muscovites.

The Russian Orthodox Church and a number of far-right groups have also sworn to halt any attempt to hold any march in support of gay rights in Russia.

Last year, Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court ruled that a city ban on holding a Gay Pride Parade was legal. Around 100 protestors subsequently gathered outside City Hall to submit a petition to the mayor against what they called an “unfounded and illegal prohibition on holding the march in support of sexual minorities in Russia.”

The protest turned violent when British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was kicked and beaten by extremists. Police detained 31 people, including two Italian members of the European parliament.