June 2, 2014 at 11:43 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Russian LGBT advocates detained during Moscow protests

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Russian LGBT rights advocates were detained on May 31 during two demonstrations in Moscow. (Photo by Dmitry Azovtsev via Wikimedia Commons)

Russian authorities on May 31 detained several people who took part in two LGBT rights demonstrations in Moscow.

The Associated Press reported that police arrested two advocates during what the news agency described as an “unsanctioned gay pride demonstration” outside Moscow City Hall. Reuters posted a video to its website that shows a handful of activists driving past the building holding rainbow flags and wearing wigs to honor Conchita Wurst, an Austrian drag queen who won last month’s Eurovision song contest.

Svetlana Zakharova of the Russian LGBT Network told the Washington Blade that another pro-gay demonstration took place in Moscow’s Gorky Park later in the day.

She said authorities began to arrest those who had planned to take part in the protest against a Russian law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors as they left a nearby subway station. Zakharova told the Blade those who were detained included “a girl with a painted beard.”

Zakharova said the Gorky Park protesters held banners reading “Children need schools and kindergartens, not homophobic laws,” “Knowledge is your shield” and “Knowledge instead of hate propaganda” before the authorities ordered them to leave.

She told the Blade that police detained four protesters.

Zakharova said counter-protesters also attacked LGBT rights advocates and Nikolai Kavkazsky, a prominent Russian human rights activist.

“It is absolutely against the law to detain people participating in the peaceful demonstrations, especially taking into account that the second [demonstration] took place in the so-called ‘Hyde Park,’” said Zakharova, comparing Gorky Park to London’s Hyde Park.

The demonstrations took place nearly a year after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the gay propaganda law.

Russian police last May arrested 30 LGBT advocates who attempted to stage a Pride celebration in Moscow after they violated the city’s ban on gay rights marches. A man punched Nikolai Alekseev, co-founder of Moscow Pride, in the face before authorities took him into custody.

Authorities in February arrested more than a dozen LGBT rights advocates in Moscow and St. Petersburg who tried to stage demonstrations before the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in Sochi. Authorities detained Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender former Italian parliamentarian, twice during the games as she protested the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record in the Black Sea resort city.

Russian prosecutors earlier this year launched an investigation into Oleg Kluenkov of Rakurs, an LGBT advocacy group in Arkhangelsk, after he traveled to the U.S. last fall to discuss the country’s gay rights record. Administrators at Northern (Arctic) Federal University where Kluenkov teachers continue to pressure him to resign from his post.

“Many teachers who outspokenly support [the] LGBT movement are facing such pressure,” said Rakurs in a recent press release. “Kluenkov has refused to resign ‘voluntarily’ and intends to challenge the NArFU actions in court.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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