Moscow police violently break up gay pride rally

/ Source: The Associated Press

Moscow police violently dispersed a gay pride rally Saturday that was banned by city authorities, drawing attention to Russia's record on gay rights as it prepares to host a major international pop music competition.

About 30 activists gathered near a university in southwestern Moscow to protest discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia.

The group, which included British gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell, waved flags and chanted slogans, including: "Homophobia is a disgrace of this country!" and "We are demanding equal rights!"

Hauled away
After about a minute, riot police charged into the group and began to grab protesters, dragging them to waiting buses. Tatchell was talking with reporters when police started to haul him away. "This shows the Russian people are not free," he said.

Russian gay rights movement leader Nikolai Alexeyev was among those detained.

After the demonstration, riot police detained other gay activists who appeared after the protest and were speaking with the media. As they hauled away Ksenia Prilebskaya, police ripped off her shirt and bra and roughly pushed her into a police bus.

City authorities had barred Saturday's rally saying it was morally wrong. Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov has described homosexuality as "satanic."

Major music competition
The detentions come as Moscow prepares to host the final of the Eurovision song contest, Europe's most prestigious pop music contest.

The international competition has drawn attention to gay rights in Russia, with some singers threatening to boycott the event if the gay pride parade was not allowed to happen.

At an earlier rally close to the center of Moscow, about 50 demonstrators from nationalist and Orthodox Christian organizations denounced homosexuality. One man was detained when he accused officials in the Kremlin of being gay.