Pic source: Gay Liberation Network

According to reports from Moscow, 40 people, including a leading UK gay rights activist, were arrested for attempting to hold a peaceful Pride march on Saturday.

The march had been outlawed by Moscow city authorities, but permission had been given for counter-demonstrations by far right ultra-nationalists.

Between 35 and 40 Russian LGBT activists were arrested, including British human rights activist Peter Tatchell and Chicago activist Andy Thayer. Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev was held down by five fully armed riot police while being arrested.

The incident was covered by numerous reporters and film crews.

According to The Moscow Times, Tatchell was not charged and released after intervention by the British Embassy, but others were held for over 24 hours and fined for taking part in the event. Alekseev will appear in court to face charges of organising an illegal protest.

Pic source: Gay Liberation Network

“The police brutality that we witnessed here this afternoon is shocking. We planned a peaceful march to highlight the dire state of LGBT rights in Russia today. The police, given violent legitimacy by the openly homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, did not hold back with their weapons, despite the world’s media watching,” said Alekseev in a statement.

The event was originally planned to be held at Novopushkinsky Skver in central Moscow, but in a bid to avoid police, the protest was moved at the last minute to Vorobyovy Gory viewpoint – a popular spot for wedding photographs.

Moscow Pride was scheduled to coincide with the Eurovision song contest final, which took place on Saturday night in the city.

Despite a call by Alekseev for artists to boycott the contest – which has a strong gay following – in order to “send a message that Russia’s state oppression of human rights is not acceptable” the event went ahead with incident.

Eurovision winner Rybak (Pic: Alain Douit (EBU) )

The winner of the contest, Norway’s 23 year old singer Rybak, was critical of the organisers’ timing, telling the Associated Press: “I think it is a little bit sad that they chose to have (the protests) today. … They were spending all their energy on that parade, while the biggest gay parade in the world was tonight” at Eurovision.

“I feel really bad, but I don’t know very much about this”, commented openly-gay Eurovision host Graham Norton on the crackdown, reported Pinknews.co.uk.

“What was witnessed this afternoon on the streets of Moscow shows the world just how little Russia has travelled when it comes to supporting fundamental human rights. This episode has shamed the Russian Government and Moscow authorities before the world,” said Alekseev.

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