Updated: 4:10pm BST
Moscow police have arrested and detained a number of prominent gay rights activists including the openly gay US solider Dan Choi as homophobic violence broke out during the banned Moscow Pride march near to the Kremlin.
A large group of gay rights activists including the British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchel waved rainbow flags and carried signs reading “Russia is not Iran” were attacked by ultra-Orthodox campaigners who gathered to disturb the march, banned for the sixth year by the Moscow authorities.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia’s ban of Moscow Pride in 2006, 2007 and 2008 breached the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Russia is a singatory due to its membership of the Council of Europe. The court forced Russia to pay damages to the organisers.
Last month, it was reported that Moscow City Council had given approval for a gay pride march to be held legally for the first time. However, this was quickly reversed and yesterday, police warned gay rights activists that they would break up the pride march.
Today, eye witnesses statements and videos posted onto YouTube show that police violently arrested both gay rights campaigners and neo-Nazis. In the videos, police are shown violently wrestlying activists and neo-Nazis to the ground before leading them off in handcuffs to waiting security vans.
Among those detained include the US gay rights activist Dan Choi, famous for chaining himself to the White House in protest at the US military’s former ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ ban on openly gay service personnel.
Others arrested include Andy Thayer and French campaigner Louis-George Tin.
British campaigner Peter Tatchell manage to wrestle himself free from police and escaped their capture. In the past he has been badly beaten and punched by violent police officers.
“I went to City Hall but was separated from our protest group. Neo-Nazis identified me for attack. Being alone and without police protection, I had to escape down side streets and alleyways to avoid a beating,” he wrote in a posting on Facebook.
Dan Choi posted on Twitter that one of his fellow detainees, a neo-Nazi said “we will kick your ass, f*ck you Faggot” to him prior to their arrest. Choi who posted photographs of his time inside a Moscow police station has reported that foreigners will be released by the police, while Russians will be detained overnight.
“Anna Komarova, who is under arrest, reports being pressured by the police to give information about the organisation of Moscow Gay Pride. The police are threatening to detain her for 48 hours unless she gives them the information they want,” Mr Tatchell wrote.
Mr Tatchell told AFP that he believes that some of the Neo-Nazis who fought with gay rights activists were undercover police officers. He said that he saw coaches outside the police station “which were packed with people who looked like skinheads and neo-Nazis. But they were police buses.
“Our suspicion is that they were police officers in civilian clothes. We suspect that a sizeable portion of the neo-Nazis were actually undercover police officers.”
Orthodox group member Leonid Simonovich-Nikshich told AFP: “We have come here to prevent this event from happening,” said as scuffles raged around him. God burned down Sodom and Gomorrah and he will burn down Moscow too if we let things like this happen.”