Gays and lesbians will be safe in Moscow during next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, a Moscow government official said at the opening day of World Travel Market 2008 in London.

But a Moscow activist said the statement made in London was “pure hypocrisy”.

Sergei Ananov, the deputy head of the Moscow committee on tourism made the assurance during a press briefing on Monday.

“Moscow is known for the respect of people of different religious beliefs as well as expressions of their nature,” he said. “Until people respect public order and do not thrust their opinions on those who surround them in a manner that does not contradict the law, such opinions will not be criticised.”

Russia won the right to stage the Eurovision finals following the victory of Russian singer Dima Bilan in Belgrade last May.

Next year the 54th Eurovision Song contest will be held in Moscow; this has been confirmed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The semi-finals will be held on May 12 and 14, with the final on Saturday May 16.

In Moscow, gay activists have said that the fourth Gay Pride in the Russian capital will take place on the day of Eurovision final. For three years Moscow authorities have banned gays and lesbians from peaceful demonstrations.

Activists have had to go onto the streets without permission and have been arrested by police and beaten by the ultra nationalists and religious fanatics.

Organizer of Moscow Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, denounced Mr. Ananov’s statement as “pure hypocrisy”.

“For three years Moscow authorities made statements that they are unable to provide the security of gays and lesbians wishing to express their views,” Mr. Alekseev said today.

“This time, they have nothing to do than to provide guarantees of security for the international contest which is especially popular among homosexual people.”

He once again confirmed that “the march of the fourth Gay Pride in Moscow” will take place on the day of the Eurovision final. “We are not going to change our plans,” he insisted.

“Moreover, we are convinced that many gays and lesbians who will come to Russia from Europe to see this event will also join our action on the streets of Moscow.

“I don’t understand what Mr. Ananov meant when he talked about the thrusting of homosexual opinions on others in a form that does not contradict the law.

“All our public actions have always been planned as human rights actions to attract the attention of Russian authorities to the current discrimination of sexual minorities in the society and they need to look for the solutions of this social problem by legislative means.”

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