Russian police force have arrested seventeen gay rights activists during a May Day rally in St Petersburg, which recently passed a law that banned what it called ‘homosexual propaganda.

According to the Guardian, members of the group were detained when they attempted to unfurl rainbow flags at the rally, organised by opposition groups, and, it is understood that they will be charged with failing to co-operate with police officers.

Yury Gavrikov, a local gay rights activist, told local news agencies that the “first activists who unfurled their flags were detained,” as were those who tried to raise posters. “Two police officers would grab each person, with no warning,” he added.

Following St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, the third largest city in Russia, also passed an anti-propaganda law. There are plans to introduce the legislation at a national level. These legislations have support from the ultra-conservative Russian Orthodox Church, which is campaigning hard at local and national levels against gay rights.

“The point of the law wasn’t to repress people,” Mr Gavrikov Said. “It was created for the same reasons the atom bomb was developed during the cold war – as a means of political pressure… This new law is the same, it creates political, psychological pressure and creates a group of second-class citizens.”