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Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 11:57 UK

Gay protest broken up in Moscow

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Police broke up the march being held by gay rights activists

Police in Russia have broken up a protest by gay rights activists in Moscow, staged to coincide with the final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Some 30 campaigners had gathered near a university in defiance of a ban on their march and many were dragged away by police when they shouted slogans.

British gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, was among those detained.

A counter-demonstration by nationalist and religious groups was allowed to go ahead elsewhere in the Russian capital.

Equal rights

The gay rights group had been waving flags and chanting slogans demanding equal rights and condemning the treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia.

At least 20 were arrested as police moved in to disperse the protest.

As he was being taken away by police, Mr Tatchell shouted: "This shows the Russian people are not free."

Speaking from a police station, he later told the BBC: "The way the police violently broke up our peaceful protest is an indication of a drift toward authoritarianism that is affecting all Russians."

'Satanic'

The organiser of the gathering and leading campaigner, Nikolai Alexeyev, was also detained at the event, which took place in the south-west of the city.

Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev, May 5, 2009
Nikolai Alexeyev organised the event despite the ban

The Eurovision Song Contest traditionally has a large gay following and activists in Russia had seen its staging in Moscow as a great opportunity to highlight what they say is deep prejudice, says the BBC's Moscow correspondent, Richard Galpin.

There have been many attacks on members of the gay community - they also say they risk being sacked by their employers and shunned by their families.

The Moscow mayor Yuri Luzkhov has described gay parades as "satanic".

Anti-gay groups had threatened to take matters into their own hands if the police failed to stop the protest.

Several dozen nationalist and religious protesters earlier staged an anti-gay march near central Moscow.



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