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Russian Gay
Rights Activists Defy Authorities With Rallies

Russian Gay
Rights Activists Defy Authorities With Rallies

Russian gay rights activists held a small, scattered protest in Moscow on Sunday, flouting repeated refusals from city authorities for permission to hold parades or demonstrations. Activists repeatedly have tried to hold parades and rallies in the Russian capital to call attention to gay rights. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called homosexuality ''satanic,'' has rejected all requests to hold them. On Sunday, about three dozen protesters gathered outside the famed Tchaikovsky music conservatory, chanting ''No to Homophobia'' and other slogans, organizer Nikolai Alexeyev told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Russian gay rights activists held a small, scattered protest in Moscow on Sunday, flouting repeated refusals from city authorities for permission to hold parades or demonstrations.

Activists repeatedly have tried to hold parades and rallies in the Russian capital to call attention to gay rights. Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called homosexuality ''satanic,'' has rejected all requests to hold them.

On Sunday, about three dozen protesters gathered outside the famed Tchaikovsky music conservatory, chanting ''No to Homophobia'' and other slogans, organizer Nikolai Alexeyev told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, hundreds of riot police, journalists, and onlookers thronged a square in front of Moscow's City Hall in anticipation of a larger, promised protest that never materialized. Several people brandished religious icons and crosses and at least one gay rights supporter was assaulted while uniformed police officers stood by and watched.

Activists unfurled a banner from a building by the square reading ''Rights for Gays and Lesbians!'' and ''Take Mayor Luzhkov's Homophobia to Court'' before police pulled it down.

An Associated Press photographer saw several people detained by police. Ekho Moskvy said up to 15 people were detained and the Interfax news agency said all were nationalists.

A city police duty officer, however, said 13 people were detained in all but they were detained for jaywalking, not connected to the protest. He refused to give his name since he was not authorized to speak to the media.

For the past two years, gay activists have sought permission to publicly mark the date in 1993 when homosexuality was decriminalized, but city officials repeatedly have refused.

In 2006, gay activists trying to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just outside the Kremlin wall were arrested by riot police and violently harangued by religious and nationalist extremists.

Among Russian gays and lesbians, the push for greater visibility has been met with ambivalence and outright opposition in some cases, particularly by gay entrepreneurs and some entertainers.

Kiril Frolov, a leader with the Union of Orthodox Citizens, asserted that Russians' attitudes toward homosexuality have only gotten harsher.

''What is democracy? It is rule of the majority and the majority of people in Russia, civil society in Russia, will never recognize the support of sodomy,'' he told Ekho Moskvy. (Mike Eckel, AP)

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