Gay rights activists in Russia are celebrating after the European Court of Human Rights today upheld three complaints over Moscow’s ban on gay Pride marches.

Russian gay rights leader Nikolai Alekseev complained to the court that the parade bans in 2006, 2007 and 2008 breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court agreed and ordered Russia was to pay to Mr Alekseev 12,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 17,510 euros for costs and expenses.

The city’s last mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, repeatedly banned the marches on pretexts of health and safety and has called gays and lesbians “satanic”.

Since 2006, campaigners have attempted to hold the events but these were broken up by police.

In May 2006, more than 120 people were arrested and in 2007, British gay activist Peter Tatchell was severely beaten by neo-Nazis. In 2008, marchers accused police of brutality.

Today’s victory comes after years of legal attempts to hold Pride marches.

The ruling said: “The main reason for the bans on the gay marches had been the authorities’ disapproval of demonstrations which, they considered, promoted homosexuality.

“In particular, the court could not disregard the strong personal opinions publicly expressed by the Moscow mayor and the undeniable link between those statements and the bans.

“Consequently, the court found that, as the government had not justified their bans in a way compatible with the Convention requirements, Mr Alekseev had suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation.”

Speaking to UK Gay News, Mr Alekseev said: “This decision is a major victory for us because no judge, no lawyer and no politician will any longer be able to tell us that the bans of our events were lawful.”

He added: “The decision is the first judicial blow for former mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov who declared on several occasions that gay Pride organisers and participants were satanic, weapons of mass destruction and faggots.”

He added that October 21st would be celebrated in the future as Russian LGBT Liberation Day.

London-based gay rights activist Peter Tatchell added: “This ruling is a major rebuke to the disgraced former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, and to his authoritarian allies in the Russian government.

“It is a huge embarrassment to the top Russian leaders, Putin and Medvedev, as well as to Luzhkov. Their suppression of peaceful gay pride parades has been declared illegal.”

He added: “This is an astonishing victory. Nikolai and his small band of daring LGBT activists have taken on the might of the Russian state – and won.”

Russia may still contest the ruling if it wishes.

Mr Luzhkov was sacked as mayor of Moscow last month.