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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Moscow's anti-gay protesters held
By Damian Grammaticas
BBC News, Moscow

Skinhead protesters outside the night club
Among the skinheads was one protester wearing a Nazi helmet
Thirty nine people have been arrested in Moscow after protesting outside a gay nightclub on Monday.

Riot police were brought in to control a mixture of right-wing and religious activists, who picketed the club and shouted insults at people leaving it.

For two nights in a row, Russia's gay and lesbian clubs have been targeted.

A leading gay rights activist said the rallies were the result of homophobic remarks by the city government and religious leaders.

'Damaging to Russia'

Most of the 39 arrested were charged with minor public order offences.

The demonstrators were an unlikely alliance of young men, from a Russian nationalist group, and Orthodox Christians, many of them elderly women.

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)

On Monday night, a crowd of about 100 of them tried to prevent people entering Moscow's best-known gay club.

The right-wing activists shouted homophobic abuse, while the Christian groups, waving crosses and icons, chanted "God is with us".

They smashed windows on two cars and earlier eggs, fruit and plastic bottles had been thrown at people leaving another club.

The groups say homosexuality is a sin and is damaging Russia.

Russia's gay community is planning its first ever public gay pride march for later this month.

Moscow's mayor has said he will ban the march because he believes homosexuality is not natural and because the event would cause outrage in society.

Nikolai Alekseyev, one of Russia's most high profile gay rights campaigners, blamed the mayor's comments for inspiring fanatics and nationalists and for provoking them to violence.

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