Reuters reported authorities took the advocates into custody outside Moscow City Hall for violating the Russian capital’s ban on gay rights marches. A photo that Nikolai Alekseev, co-founder of Moscow Pride, posted to his Facebook page shows a man punching him in the face before his arrest.
Gay Star News on Friday reported Russian authorities came to Alekseev’s home and warned him, his mother and another Pride organizer that they could face charges under Russian law if they staged the event.
“I don’t know what will happen tomorrow and how many people will be courageous enough to turn up for Moscow Pride,” Alekseev told the website.
The Moscow arrests took place against the backdrop of increasing criticism against the Russian government for widespread anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in the country.
The State Department in January criticized the passage of a bill in the Russian Duma that would prohibit the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors. Russian lawmakers are expected to give final approval to the measure in the coming weeks.
A St. Petersburg court in February upheld a previous ruling that dismissed a lawsuit against Madonna for violating the city’s ban on “homosexual propaganda” to children during an August 2012 concert.
Two men remain in custody after they allegedly sodomized Vladislav Tornovoi with empty beer bottles and set his body on fire near Volgograd on May 10 after he reportedly came out to them following a night of drinking.
Gay Ukrainian advocates rally; Georgian activists attacked
Dozens of advocates held the Ukraine’s first gay rights rally in the country’s capital, Kiev, in spite of an earlier court ruling that banned it on the same day Russian authorities arrested Alekseev and other Moscow Pride participants.
The Ukraine march took place eight days after thousands of people attacked a few dozen Georgian gay rights advocates who tried rally in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, to commemorate the annual International Day Against Homophobia.
Irakli Vacharadze, founder of Identoba, a Georgian LGBT advocacy group that organized the rally, told the Washington Blade earlier this month that violence against gays and lesbians in the former Soviet republic remains a serious concern. He said on May 19, two days after the mob attacked him and other rally participants, that “we are sitting in our homes” and “can’t get out.”
As for Alekseev, authorities released him from custody a few hours after his arrest.
“I am now safe and in the safe location,” he said in post to his Facebook page on Saturday. “We did it! Thanks to all [who] came out without fear despite the bans.”