Efforts to stage a gay parade in Moscow have sparked outrage (AFP)
PRAGUE, May 27, 2006 -- Organizers of a planned gay-pride parade have announced that they will stage two smaller protests in Moscow today after the city banned the parade.
Gay activists announced today that they plan to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near Red Square as an act of protest against fascism. Later in the day they will assemble for a protest rally near the square.
Gay activist Nikolai Alekseyev, the driving force behind the march, was quoted by AP as saying during a press conference that "we are conducting a peaceful action. We want to show that we have the same rights as other citizens."
The city issued an order prohibiting the parade, and that decision was upheld by a district court yesterday.
AP quoted Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov as saying during a radio interview yesterday that gay-pride parades "may be acceptable for some kind of progressive, in some sense, countries in the West. But it is absolutely unacceptable for Moscow, for Russia."
"As long as I am mayor, we will not permit these parades to be conducted," Luzhkov said.
Moscow plans to have 1,000 police officers on alert today, Interfax news agency reported, citing a city government spokesman. An additional 700 riot police will also be on hand.
Efforts to stage the parade, planned to fall on the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Russia, have been met with fierce resistance.
When Moscow Mayor Luzhkov first banned the march, he said the event would "provoke outrage in society." His spokesman added that any attempt to flout the ban would be "resolutely quashed."
Russia's religious community has also been vocal in its opposition to the parade. The Moscow Patriarchate condemned it as a "glorification of sin." Russia's chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, warned against "homosexual propaganda." And a top Muslim cleric, Talgat Tadzhuddin, even called on believers to "bash" gays if they take to the street.
Last month, ultranationalists and Russian Orthodox activists attacked two Moscow gay nightclubs, throwing bottles, rocks, and eggs at party-goers and chanting homophobic insults.
MORE: To read RFE/RL's Russian Service coverage of the parade issue in Russia, click here.