Russian gay rights activists forced to cancel Obama protest

Russian gay activists in Moscow have been forced to cancel a protest timed to coincide with US president Barack Obama’s visit to the city.

They had planned the demonstration for tomorrow outside the US Embassy to highlight his pledge to increase rights for same-sex couples.

The protest had been banned by city officials, as was Slavic Pride in May, but activists said they would protest anyway.

However, organiser Nikolai Alekseev told Reuters today it had been cancelled due to safety fears.

He said: “In the context of another unlawful ban by the authorities on a public event as well as the special measures taken in the Russian capital during the visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, we have decided to cancel the event due to concerns over the safety of our members.”

City authorities said the protest was not allowed due to another group booking the area in front of the embassy and that most city residents were against it.

Gay protests in Moscow have been met with violence before. In 2007, campaigner Peter Tatchell was badly beaten by police at a Pride march. This year’s Slavic Pride ended abruptly as police manhandled protesters into vans.