October 13, 2014 at 10:47 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Russian LGBT advocates detained during Moscow protest

National Coming Out Day, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

Moscow police on Oct. 12, 2014, arrest an LGBT rights advocate during a National Coming Out Day protest. (Photo courtesy of Nikolai Baev)

Russian police on Sunday detained eight people who staged a National Coming Out Day protest in Moscow.

A YouTube video shows protesters unfurling a banner outside Moscow’s Sokolniki Park before handing out flyers on coming out to passersby.

The advocates also held rainbow flags.

Nikolai Baev, one of those who was detained, told the Washington Blade on Monday that local authorities had authorized the protest. Dima Svetliy, who was also taken into custody, noted organizers had secured the necessary permits.

“The rally was peaceful for the first half an hour,” said Baev.

Baev told the Blade that policemen arrived and “claimed the action was not legal.” He said protest organizers decided to take down their poster and flags, but the police nevertheless detained them and the handful of protesters.

“Police officers asked the organizer to get into the (police) car,” Svetliy told the Blade. “We understood that we were now screwed.”

Baev said many of the policemen who detained them were wearing civilian clothing.

“They were criminal policemen, who watched the rally and waited for the moment to detain the participants,” he said. “This is a common practice in Putin’s country; a lot of police agents watch all rallies in Moscow.”

Pictures the Blade obtained from Baev show authorities detaining protesters and placing them into police cars.

“Policemen started to drag people on the ground to police cars,” said Baev.

Baev told the Blade he and the other protesters were brought to a local police station and accused of disobeying the officers. He said they released him and the other advocates three hours later.

The protest took place against the backdrop of ongoing criticism of the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record.

President Vladimir Putin in 2013 signed into law a bill that bans so-called gay propaganda to minors. Russian advocates with whom the Blade has spoken since the statute took effect maintain anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in the country has increased.

Russian authorities over the last year have arrested dozens of LGBT rights advocates during protests and other gatherings.

Police in Moscow and St. Petersburg in February detained more than a dozen activists who held pro-LGBT demonstrations on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. Authorities during the games arrested transgender former Italian Parliamentarian Vladimir Luxuria after she protested the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record.

Moscow police in May detained several advocates during two pro-LGBT protests.

The Kremlin late last month withdrew from an American student exchange program after it said a gay couple convinced a Russian teenager to seek asylum in the U.S.

National Coming Out Day, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

Russian LGBT rights advocates on Oct. 12, 2014, held a protest in Moscow to commemorate National Coming Out Day. (Photo courtesy of Nikolai Baev)

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

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