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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Arrests at Russian gay protests
Russian protester attacks British gay rights campaigner Peter  Tatchell
British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was among those arrested

Two West European MPs and a Russian gay rights leader have been arrested in Moscow, as violence broke out at a banned protest by gay rights activists.

Anti-homosexual protesters threw kicks, punches and eggs at the gay rights group, chanting "Moscow is not Sodom".

The gay rights demonstrators were trying to deliver a petition to the mayor of Moscow, demanding the right to stage public marches.

Veteran British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was among those held.

Mr Tatchell was punched in the face before being detained.

The leader of GayRussia, Nikolai Alexeyev, was also arrested.

Italian MEP Marco Cappato was kicked by an anti-gay rights protester and then arrested when he demanded police protection.

Protesters warned

Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov has called homosexuality "satanic" and says he will never allow gay rights parades in Russia's capital.

Gay activists were also attacked by right-wing protesters and arrested during a march last year.

Sunday's protest was to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia.

Moscow city police spokesman Viktor Bryukov had warned the organisers not to go ahead.

"Moscow police don't have the right to encroach on the law to pander to a group of citizens who exploit the theme of human rights while distorting this notion," he said.

On Saturday, right-wingers and members of the Russian Orthodox Church held an anti-gay demonstration in Moscow.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, supports the ban on gay parades.

Gay activists in Russia were divided over whether the protest should be held.

Some fear it could provoke a backlash.

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