A senior member of the Duma, the parliament of the Russian Federation, has condemned the ban on a gay Pride march in Moscow later this month.

Alexei Mitrofanov, who represents the Liberal Democratic party, said the ban leads to very negative consequences for Russia.

The homophobic mayor of Moscow has pledged he will never allow a gay march in his city, calling gay people “Satanic.”

Gay activists pressed on with Moscow Pride on 27th May last year, despite a ban, police arrests, and violence from neo-fascists, right-wing nationalists and Orthodox Christian fundamentalists.

Over 120 people including a German MP were arrested during the chaotic scenes at Moscow Pride as gay campaigners from all over the world converged in the Russian capital.

They were met by religious and nationalist protesters chanting anti-gay slogans and 1000 riot police aiming to stop demonstrations in Red Square.

The organiser of Moscow Pride, Nicolas Alexeyev, has vowed to hold the event in 2007, and has formally started proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights concerning last year’s Pride.

The 20-page application to the European Court concerns two separate issues: the ban by Moscow authorities of the gay pride march and the banning of the alternative Pride picket, both scheduled for May 27, 2006.

In the application, Pride organisers claim that in denying permission to stage both the march and the picket, the Russian Federation breached Article 11 (right to freedom of peaceful assembly), Article 13 (right to effective court protection) and Article 14 (discrimination ban) in conjunction with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a signatory.

In the Duma today Mr Mitrofanov commented:

“We will lose all Strasbourg cases on this issue and then we will be surprised that some persons or deputies will not get entry visas to the European countries.”

Nicolas Alexeyev welcomed the statement of deputy Mitrofanov:

“Unfortunately we very rarely hear such balanced and politically responsible statements concerning homosexual people from Russian politicians.

“Today’s statement of Mr Mitrofanov is a statement of the politician who is looking into the future and who sees Russia as a democratic and free state where the rights of all citizens irrespective of personal characteristics are respected.

“Alexei Mitrofanov knows very well that LGBT community is a big electoral resource which has not be used by any political power in our country.

“I want to believe that the time has come when the situation will start to change and the views of gays and lesbians who are equal citizens of Russia will finally be heard in the political process.”

Moscow Pride 2007 will take place on Sunday May 27th, marking the day in 1993 when homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia.