International news agencies are reporting that four people were arrested in St. Petersburg, Russia, during a protest by a small group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists.
An AFP reporter said on May 17 that about 10 people took part in the protest in the city center as they marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Reuters also reported the arrests.
The LGBT activists were quickly surrounded by riot police.
"We want to draw attention to the problems of the LGBT community. They are clamping down on us and don't allow us to defend our rights," one of the group told AFP.
City officials in Moscow on May 15 rejected four requests for rallies in the capital on May 25-27, including a gay pride march. Nikolai Alekseyev, an LGBT community leader, said the authorities have rejected such rallies for 14 years.
Russia’s Interfax news agency said the requests were turned down by city officials based on a law banning “gay propaganda among minors.”
Alekseyev said the decision was appealed, and he expressed hopes the case will be heard before the scheduled dates for the events.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rebuked Moscow for a ban on holding LGBT gatherings as a violation of human rights and freedom of assembly.
On May 16, U.S. officials imposed new financial sanctions on a law enforcement agency in Russia's Chechnya region linked to a recent “gay purge” that has resulted in dozens of gay and bisexual men being imprisoned, and in some cases, tortured in the North Caucasus region.
President Vladimir Putin has asserted that Russia does not discriminate against gay people, but rights activists vocally dispute that.