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​​Participants in the march were guarded by police escorts after a similar rally last year was halted to avoid a confrontation with religious counterprotesters.

Religious hard-liners in Moldova's capital tried to crash a rally in support of the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community but were fended off by police who deployed tear gas.

The Orthodox Christian protesters unsuccessfully attempted to break through a police line set up to guard dozens off demonstrators who marched through Chisinau in the May 19 rally against homophobia.

Video footage from the scene showed Orthodox activists rinsing their eyes with water after apparently being repelled by police.

Participants in the march were guarded by police escorts after a similar rally last year was halted by police to avert a confrontation with religious counterprotesters.

At last year's march, scores of participants were evacuated in buses by police after eggs and water were thrown at them by those attending the rival protest.

More than 20 Western embassies in Moldova -- including those of the United States and numerous EU members -- issued a statement of support for this year's march two days prior to the event.

"As the values of tolerance and respect for diversity are fundamental to open democratic societies, we recognize the right of LGBTI-persons and their supporters to conduct the Solidarity March...peacefully," the embassies said in a letter released by the rally's organizers.

Moldovan President Igor Dodon (right) greets an Orthodox bishop during an anti-LGBT march in Chisinau on May 12.
Moldovan President Igor Dodon (right) greets an Orthodox bishop during an anti-LGBT march in Chisinau on May 12.

The Moldovan branch of Amnesty International last year accused President Igor Dodon of violating the country's constitution by saying that he was not the president of Moldovan gays.

"I have never promised to be the president of the gays, they should have elected their own president," Dodon told reporters the same day as last year's rally that police cut short.

Dodon had criticized last year's march before it was held, saying it promoted "actions [that] contradict our traditional values."

Dodon said ahead of this year's march that "only normal families" have a place in Moldova.

Uzbek human rights activist Vasila Inoyatova (file photo)

A well-known Uzbek human rights advocate who worked with political prisoners and was a vocal critic of forced labor in the Central Asian nation has died.

Sources told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on May 19 that Vasila Inoyatova died earlier that morning in Tashkent during an operation for internal bleeding.

She was 62.

Inoyatova was the longtime chairwoman of the Tashkent-based Ezgulik (Compassion) human rights center.

She campaigned against forced labor in Uzbekistan's cotton industry and torture during the authoritarian rule of longtime leader Islam Karimov, whose death was announced in September 2016.

In recent years, Inoyatova was active in defending the rights of political prisoners, opposition activists, and independent journalists, visiting them in prison and trying to offer legal and financial support.

She was a key on-the-ground contact for international rights watchdogs seeking information about political prisoners in Uzbekistan.

"Vasila was a true champion of the underdog and will be sorely missed," Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter on May 19.

Karimov’s successor, Shavkat Mirziyoev, has promised reform following more than two decades of repressive rule under Karimov.

In recent months, he has taken steps to reform Uzbekistan's long-feared security services, and several activists and journalists have been freed after years in prison.

Mirziyoev made no public comments on the situation of human rights or democracy in Uzbekistan following his May 16 talks with U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House.

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