MOSCOW – Moscow police arrested more than 30 people trying to hold two unauthorized gay-rights demonstrations in the capital on Saturday.
Opponents of gay rights scuffled with the demonstrators and with police. A police spokesman, Maxim Kolosvetov, told Russian news agencies that 18 gay activists and 14 opponents were arrested.
Moscow authorities routinely ban gay rights demonstrations. Although homosexuality was decriminalized in post-Soviet Russia, anti-gay sentiment is high and authorities justify the bans on the grounds of trying to prevent fights.
Activists tried to hold a demonstration at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin and later outside the mayor’s office.
The attempted demonstration at the first site appeared aimed at connecting gay rights with the Soviet Union’s stand against Germany in World War II, which remains a cornerstone of Russian national pride.
The demonstration ban “is particularly shocking because during the Second World War, Muscovites stood against the Nazis who thought to exterminate Jews, homosexuals and Communists, but now the mayor of Moscow is colluding with new-Nazis,” said Peter Tatchell, a British gay rights activist who has taken part in several demonstration attempts in Moscow.