Religious and nationalist groups in Moscow have said they will patrol a small park in the city that they claim is used by gay men as a meeting place.

Intelfax news agency reports that around 50 people gathered yesterday to “reclaim” the park and launch their campaign.

The activists said they will ask people they suspect are gay to leave the park during their nightly patrols.

A spokeswoman for a Russian Orthodox youth group told Intelfax they wanted to target gay men:

“They boldly demonstrate their non-traditional orientation, persuading everyone that it is normal.

“We believe that it is a vice and want to remove all this from this site, which is sacred to Russians.”

The Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, is being asked to confirm that the patrols are legal.

He banned last month’s gay Pride march, and has made a string of homophobic statements in the past few years.

When gay activists tried to deliver a letter of protest to his office last month, they were pelted with eggs and assaulted by a small mob of anti-gay Russians.

The organiser of Moscow Pride, Nicolas Alexeyev, said he was not worried by the park patrol, commenting that the small number of people involved meant it was likely to be short-lived.