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Russian activists
push to keep gays out of Moscow park

Russian activists
push to keep gays out of Moscow park

Activists from nationalist and Russian Orthodox groups on Tuesday launched a campaign to keep LGBT people away from a Moscow park they say is a popular meeting place for gays and lesbians, Russian media reported.

The campaign reflects confidence among conservative activists that they will face no opposition from authorities in Russia, which liberals accuse of tolerating nationalist and extreme-right activists while taking measures to silence Kremlin critics.

About 50 people from several organizations converged on the small park in central Moscow near the offices of President Vladimir Putin's administration, the Interfax news agency and Ekho Moskvy radio reported. Several prayed at a monument honoring 19th-century Russian military heroes, led by a Russian Orthodox priest, Ekho Moskvy reported.

Interfax quoted Diana Romanovskaya, spokeswoman for a Russian Orthodox youth activist group called Georgiyevtsy, as saying the park is frequented by people ''who boldly demonstrate their nontraditional [sexual] orientation, persuading everyone that it is normal. We believe that it is a vice and want to remove all this from this site, which is sacred to Russians.''

Starting Wednesday, the activists plan to conduct ''patrols'' of the park every evening, asking people they believe are gay to leave the area, the reports said. According to Ekho Moskvy, the Georgiyevtsy group plans to ask city police and Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov's office to help patrol the park or to stipulate that their actions are legal.

Luzhkov has drawn Western criticism over his vocal antigay comments and his refusal to grant permission for gay rights demonstrations in the capital. Late last month police detained gay rights activists, including European lawmakers, as they tried to present a letter appealing the ban to Luzhkov's office. Members of a hostile crowd punched activists and pelted them with eggs.

A leading Russian gay rights activist, Nikolai Alexeyev, said the turnout at Tuesday's gathering indicated that the campaign would not last long.

''Nobody will waste their time--it makes no sense,'' he told the Associated Press. (AP)

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