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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Gay marchers to defy Moscow ban
Gay Pride, Rome
Gay pride events have been staged in many cities worldwide
Russian gay rights campaigners say they will hold a gay pride rally on Saturday despite a ban by Moscow's mayor.

The organiser of Russia's first gay and lesbian festival, Nikolai Alexeyev, told the BBC that the gay activists would find an alternative route.

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov banned the march, calling it an "outrage" and nationalists plan to disrupt the event.

But Mr Alexeyev said campaigners had already achieved their goal of raising awareness of homophobia in Russia.

"This event was just the opportunity for us to say no to homophobia and to attract the media attention to this problem and to attract the attention of the authorities," he told the BBC's World Today programme.

The police will not protect us because this will be officially an illegal event
Nikolai Alexeyev

"In the last 10 months I would say the Russian media has talked about this problem more than in the whole of Russian history."

Mr Alexeyev said homophobia was a big problem in Russia and there were frequent attacks on gay people.

Earlier this month, 39 people were arrested in Moscow after protesting outside a gay nightclub. 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.

Mayor Luzhkov said he banned the march because he believed homosexuality was not natural and because the event would cause outrage in society - a position supported by many Christian and Muslim groups.

Alternative

Mr Alexeyev said the ban means the march may not go ahead as originally planned, but there would be some form of public action on 27 May.

BEING GAY IN RUSSIA
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)

"Of course, we will not proceed on the same route that we applied for in the application, because there will not be enough security and there will be nationalistic groups who will gather in the same place and try to disrupt events," he said.

"We will have to find other options to go and realise our constitutional rights, it will be some kind of different gathering somewhere in the city."

Mr Alexeyev said opinion polls in April 2005 and April 2006 showed public attitudes were changing.

"If a year ago the majority was asking for the criminal prosecution of gays, this April the majority are against," he said.

"There are more people tolerant now than a year ago."


SEE ALSO:
City landmark goes pink for Pride
23 May 06 |  West Midlands
Gay pride challenges Moscow
17 Feb 06 |  Europe


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