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Russian police take away a banner from gay rights activists during a rally outside the mayor's office in Moscow (photo via Reuters)

Arrests at gay rights marches

May 25, 2013

Ukrainians have held a first right gay rights rally despite disruptions from anti-gay activists. In Russia meanwhile, police arrested dozens of gay rights campaigners at an unsanctioned march.


At least 13 people were arrested on Saturday, news agency Reuters reported, as gay rights activists march through Ukraine's capital Kyiv. More than 100 people carrying rainbow flags and placards walked the roughly 250 meters (820 feet) along the city's Victory Avenue.

"Human rights are my pride," chanted the activists who included a delegation from the southern German city of Munich as well as groups from Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.

Ukraine's first gay rights rally was relatively low-key and took place amid a heavy police presence. Orthodox Christian activists also accompanied the marchers, with one anti-gay rights demonstrator shouting "Ukraine is not America. Kyiv is not Sodom," on a loudspeaker.

Nevertheless organizers heralded the event as a breakthrough for gay rights.

"This event will go down in the history of Ukraine as one of the key developments in the fight for equal human rights," said Olena Semenova, one of the organizers, expressing gratitude to the police and the authorities for their action.

Organizers were forced to cancel plans to hold the rally in Kyiv last year saying they had received threats of violence. A would-be-organizer was attacked on the same day.

Saturday's march almost didn't go ahead after a Ukrainian court ruled that no events could be staged in the capital on Saturday because of City Day celebrations.

Unsanctioned rally prompts arrests

In Moscow, meanwhile, an unsanctioned gay rights rally led to the arrests of more than 30 people, including one of the nation's leading activists for sexual equality.

According to Russia's Interfax agency, Nikolai Alexeyev, organizer of Moscow's gay pride marches, was detained by police on charges of holding an unsanctioned protest.

Campaigners gathered outside the parliament building and the mayor's office and attempted to unfurl banners denouncing the Kremlin's anti-gay legislation.

They were met by Orthodox Christian opponents who held a prayer vigil nearby. One person was arrested on charges of assaulting a gay rights activist.

Although Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, activists accuse the Kremlin of backing homophobic policies which encourage hate attacks. In January Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, passed a bill in first reading that would make "homosexual propaganda," including rallies and the dissemination of information, punishable with a fine of up to $16,000 (12,400 euros). The bill is yet to be passed into law.

ccp/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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