A leading Russian gay rights activist has accused the Moscow authorities of “pure hypocrisy” after an official gave assurances about the safety of gay people attending next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Sergei Ananov, the deputy head of the Moscow committee on tourism, said at a press briefing at the World Travel Market 2008 in London:

“Moscow is known for the respect of people of different religious beliefs as well as expressions of their nature.

“Until people respect public order and do not thrust their opinions on those who surround them in a manner that does not contradicts the law, such opinions will not be criticised.”

Gay rights marches have been repeatedly banned in Moscow.

Russia won the Eurovision Song Contest earlier this year for the first time. Next year’s final will be held on May 16th at Moscow’s Olympiyskiy stadium.

Gay activists have already said that the fourth Gay Pride in the Russian capital will take place on the day of Eurovision final.

The Mayor of Moscow has called gay rights activists “Satanic” and banned Pride in 2006 and 2007.

This year Pride organisers applied for permission to hold five marches a day, every day of May.

All were rejected by Moscow municipal authorities on the grounds they would “endanger public order and cause negative reaction of the majority of the population.”

On June 1st a group of 30 gay activists managed to stage short protests in front of Moscow City Hall and a statue of Tchaikovsky without being arrested.

There followed a farcical game of cat and mouse as police surrounded an apartment where four activists were eventually arrested after hours of siege.

They were held overnight and charged with taking part in an unauthorised demonstration and failing to obey police orders.

Nicolas Alexeyev, one of the organisers of Moscow Pride said:

“For three years Moscow authorities made statements that they are unable to provide the security of gays and lesbians wishing to express their views.

“This time, they have nothing to do than to provide guarantees of security for the international contest which is especially popular among homosexual people.

“I don’t understand what Mr. Ananov meant when he talked about the thrusting of homosexual opinions on others in a form that does not contradict the law.

“All our public actions have always been planned as human rights actions to attract the attention of Russian authorities to the current discrimination of sexual minorities in the society and the need to look for the solutions of this social problem by legislative means.”