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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 May 2006, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Banned Moscow gay rally broken up
Nikolay Alexeyev with Moscow police
Organiser Nikolay Alexeyev (L) was among those arrested
More than 70 people have been arrested in Moscow after activists tried to hold the city's first gay rights rally, despite a ban on the event.

About 50 gay rights supporters were held, as well as 20 people from religious and nationalist groups opposed to the march.

On Friday, a court upheld a ban on the march imposed by the city authorities who argued it could trigger violence.

Saturday marks 13 years since Russia's decriminalisation of homosexuality.

A number of foreign activists are in Moscow for a forum on gay rights.

About 1,000 riot police were deployed close to Red Square in the heart of the city to stop the rally from taking place and prevent clashes with its opponents.

They moved in when a group of activists tried to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in a symbolic protest to equate the struggle for gay rights with the struggle against fascism in World War II.

The rally's organiser, Nikolay Alexeyev, was among those arrested.

Slogans and abuse

Meanwhile demonstrators representing nationalist and Orthodox Christian groups chanted anti-gay slogans and shouted abuse.

Orthodox protesters
Nationalist groups opposed the rally

Eyewitnesses said several foreign gay rights activists were beaten by protesters.

"What happened today unfortunately is representative of the non-respect for human rights in Russia. You can't express your point of view, and you are not protected from extremists," said French activist Sebastien Maria.

Nationalist groups expressed anger at the nature of the action at the tomb.

"We are Russians. We are Orthodox. These soldiers died so we could live like Russians, not so these people could come here and tell us what to do," Andrey, 25, told Reuters news agency.

Both groups moved up one of the main city streets to a square outside the Moscow city government offices, where more arrests followed.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said he had 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.

He said that as long as he was mayor he would not allow such events to take place.

Mr Alexeyev said the march would not go ahead as originally planned, but promised a public action nonetheless.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Scenes from the streets of Moscow



SEE ALSO:
Gay marchers to defy Moscow ban
25 May 06 |  Europe
Gay pride challenges Moscow
17 Feb 06 |  Europe


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