Gay rights activists in Russia have said they plan to hold a gay Pride march in Moscow hours before the city hosts the Eurovision Song Contest final.

Russian gay rights movement leader Nikolai Alexeyev told AP he expected up to 500 people to join the parade, named Slavic Pride, despite official threats to close down any march.

He said he asked city authorities for permission to hold the march but added that 100 activists were prepared to disobey officials and risk prosecution by marching anyway.

City Hall spokesman Leonid Krutakov said last week: “There have been no official applications for permission to hold gay parades during the May holidays and all attempts to hold such events will be firmly stopped by the authorities.”

Gay rights advocates believe that with the world spotlight on Moscow for Eurovision, it is an ideal time to highlight discrimination.

“On the day of Eurovision, we want this issue to clearly raised at the international level,” Alexeyev said.

Activists in Moscow have been denied permission to hold a gay Pride march every year since May 2006.

Moscow city officials have said the events would “endanger public order and cause negative reaction of the majority of the population.”

In May 2006, more than 120 people were arrested after campaigners attempted to hold the capital’s first gay rights rally.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has branded gay parades “Satanic” in the past.

The Russian Orthodox Church and far-right groups have said they will prevent any attempt to hold a march in support of gay rights in Russia.