MOSCOW: Russian police on Saturday detained several gay rights activists for attempting to stage an unauthorized pride rally in central Moscow, AFP journalists reported.
Police officers seized the activists — one of whom tried to unfurl a rainbow flag — and loaded them into waiting vans as around 30 nationalist counter-demonstrators in camouflage hurled eggs at the activists and attacked them.
Several of the Orthodox counter-demonstrators were also detained by police as a large crowd of Russian and international journalists looked on.
“Arrested and beaten at 10th Moscow Pride. We are arrested! They probably broke my left hand finger,” leading gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev wrote on Twitter, posting a photo of himself in detention.
“The most brutal arrest at Moscow Pride ever!”
Gay rights activists insisted on holding the event on Saturday despite a court in Moscow banning it.
Gays in Russia face regular harassment and requests to hold pride parades have been consistently rejected by authorities in the capital.
In 2013, President Vladimir Putin approved legislation banning the dissemination of “gay propaganda” among minors.
The law has been widely condemned in the West as stoking intolerance.
Human Rights Watch last December sounded the alarm over a rising number of homophobic attacks in Russia, saying that the ban on “gay propaganda” effectively legalised discrimination.
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 and only in 1999 stopped classifying it as a mental illness.