Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov kept the promise he’s been making for months last week when he made an official announcement that the city’s first pride parade, scheduled for Saturday May 27 2006 would be cancelled.

Mr Luzhkov said months ago he would be banning the parade to protect gays and lesbians from potential violent protests, but the gay community responded that the notoriously conservative government simply wasn’t ready to embrace such an event.

According to Reuters, the gay community issued a statement seen by the mayor that the event is designed to “promote tolerance and observance of rights and liberties of homosexual people in Russia.” Because of this, the say they will take to the streets anyway. The gay community, however, says they will take to streets in any case.

Months ago, representatives from Gayrussia.ru, an advocacy movement for gay rights, filed an application with the City Hall to sanction the parade as a rally aimed at promoting human rights.

But City Hall dismissed the application, saying that “streets on the proposed route of the procession cannot be closed to traffic.”

Arrangements progressed, according to Reuters, with Luzhkov standing on the sidelines throughout the entire process insisting the parade would never see the light of day.

Nikolay Alexeev, head of Gayrussia.ru, told reporters they will file a complaint against the city government with the Moscow City Court.

“The authorities must offer us another route if the parade cannot be staged in this route,” he emphasised.

“If they are going to disperse us, let them do it before the eyes of the world community.”

The International Gay and Lesbian Association’s executive director, Patricia Prendiville, slammed the decision, “We are seriously concerned with the decision of the Moscow Mayor to deny LGBT people the right to assembly. We would like to remind Yury Luzhkov about Article 31 of the Russian Constitution which guarantees everyone a right to peaceful demonstration.

“Russia is about to take over the presidency of the Council of Europe and such a decision contradicts the basic principle of freedom of assembly enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. We also want to stress that such arguments against LGBT demonstration as religious objections and plans for counter-demonstrations cannot legitimise serious breaches of the right to assembly as confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights.

“We also hope that the European organisations and institutions will express their outrage by such lawless actions of the Moscow Mayor.

“Meanwhile we hope the ban will be successfully challenged in the court.”

Russia takes presidency of the Council of Europe this month, the continent’s oldest political institution, in charge of promoting human rights and democracy.