Gay rights activists in St Petersburg held Russia’s first legal pro-gay demonstration last Saturday.

Around a dozen people gathered in the city centre with placards calling for gay rights, following a European Court of Human Rights ruling last month.

However, they were hugely outnumbered by an estimated 100 counter-demonstrators, who threw eggs and shouted anti-gay abuse.

Reports say no one was injured but gay activists claimed that officers had done little to ensure participants’ protection.

Maria Efremenkova, who organised the gay march, told Gay City News: “These fanatics screamed homophobic insults at us and chanted religious songs and slogans, threw eggs at us, and finally tore down our posters, banners, and rainbow flags, at which point we ended the demonstration after about 40 minutes.”

But she added: “The impact of breaking the silence on homosexuality cannot be overestimated.

“Seeing strong, proud gay people speaking out and standing up for themselves and declaring they want the same human rights as everyone else inspires many people – especially those gays in the closet and young people struggling with creating their own identity in a homophobic society – to know they are not alone.”

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights upheld three complaints over Russian capital 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 ruled that Russia could not justify bans on gay rights demonstrations.