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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Protests cancel Moscow gay party
Skinhead protesters outside the night club
Among the skinheads was one protester wearing a Nazi helmet
Protesters shouting homophobic slogans and hurling eggs and bottles have forced a Moscow night club to cancel a mass gay and lesbian party.

Police kept back the crowd of at least 100 skinheads, nationalists and elderly religious protesters.

No serious injuries were reported but revellers had to be turned away and police escorted those inside to safety.

The incident comes weeks before Moscow authorities are due to rule on allowing the city's first Gay Pride parade.

Organisers had been hoping to attract about 1,000 people to the "Open Party" at the Renaissance Event Club on Ordzhonikidze Street in the south of the Russian capital.

Police keep back protesters outside the club
The party was billed as a unique mass gathering of gay Russians

However, just before 2200 (1800 GMT) on Sunday, as the final preparations were being made inside, protesters began gathering in the street.

They included skinheads and elderly women carrying Russian Orthodox icons and crosses.

Demonstrators chanted "Down with pederasts" and "No perverts here".

An AFP correspondent reports that at least one party-goer was beaten by protesters before being rescued by police but there were no official reports of injuries.

'Intimidation'

Party organisers say police numbers outside increased only gradually and there was anxiety inside as messages arrived by mobile phone about missiles being thrown at revellers trying to approach the club.

BEING GAY IN RUSSIA
Bookstand in Moscow gay lifestyle store
Homosexual acts in Russia were punishable by prison terms of up to five years until 1993
In Russian slang, a gay man is "blue" (goluboy) and a gay woman "pink" (rozovaya)

However, the officers were praised by gay rights campaigners for preventing any serious violence.

Special buses laid on took people from inside the club into Moscow city centre.

Nikolai Alexeyev, one of the chief organisers of the Moscow Gay Pride, noted that the protest had caught the city authorities unawares, coming on the eve of the May Day holiday.

It was, he said, a "mass, coordinated action aimed at intimidating Russian gays and lesbians".

Igor Artyomov, a leader of the Nationalist RONS party, told AFP outside the club that the demonstration was a "peaceful" protest against "sin".

Moscow's authorities have said they will ban the Pride parade, scheduled for 27 May, because of the public disorder it might provoke.

A formal decision is not due until the middle of the month when the organisers submit their application for permission.




SEE ALSO:
Gay pride challenges Moscow
17 Feb 06 |  Europe
Gay Pride weathers Belfast storm
06 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland


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