ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A prominent Russian blogger and photographer has been detained at St. Petersburg's airport.
Police arrested Dmitry Aleshkovsky, who is also actively involved in charity work and in campaigning for the rights of homosexuals, as he gave a video interview to two gay-rights activists late on March 14.
The activists were also detained. The three were held overnight.
Aleshkovsky said the police accused them of illegally filming at the airport, although the blogger himself was only being filmed.
A statement on the website of Rosuznik, a legal aid fund for detained opposition activists, said the three face up to 15 days in jail on charges of resisting police.
A hearing was scheduled for March 15, but Aleshkovsky said on his Facebook account that the case will instead be heard at a court in Moscow, where the blogger is based. No date was specified.
Aleshkovsky was in St. Petersburg working on a documentary about the life of local homosexuals following the adoption of a controversial antigay law in the city.
Police: No Filming At Airport
The police insist the detention has nothing to do with gay issues.
The St. Petersburg news website Fontanka.ru quoted a police spokesperson as saying that Russian law banned filming at airports.
Maksim Reznik, a leading opposition politician in St. Petersburg, spoke to police officers at the city’s Pulkovo airport.
He told RFE/RL that, according to the police, Aleshkovsky’s detention was due to the presence of agents from the Federal Protective Service (FSO), who are in charge of protecting high-ranking government officials, at the airport on March 14
"They claimed that the film was shot as FSO officials were working at the airport,” Reznik said.
"That’s the version I heard from police officers. They said that it is forbidden to film at this moment, and that he allegedly refused to obey the police officers’ request to stop filming and to present his documents. But again, that is the police’s version."
Aleshkovsky’s lawyer, Svetlana Ratnikova, expressed doubts that the police’s request was lawful.
She told the independent Dozhd television station that she had to wait four hours before police agreed to give her the documents relating to the blogger's detention.
Aleshkovsky says his arrest is connected to his efforts to promote gay rights in Russia.
He wrote on Twitter: "Just because an LGBT blogger interviewed me, we were arrested at homophobic Pulkovo."
He says police officers at the airport threatened him and the activists detained with him and forced them to take off all their clothes.
He was at the airport in the hope of interviewing British actor and writer Steven Fry, who was flying out of St. Petersburg on March 14.
Fry had been in the northern Russian city to film part of a documentary on the life of gays and lesbians around the world.
With reporting by Lenta.ru and Rosuznik.org