Eight gay rights activists were arrested today in St Petersburg, Russia, for handing out “homosexual propaganda”.

The campaigners were attempting to hold gay Pride rallies. Three were arrested in a park, while five more were arrested later at the Smolny complex.

St Petersburg passed a law in March banning “homosexual propaganda”.

Gay rights campaigner Nikolai Alekseev became the first person to be convicted of the offence in May and was fined 5,000 roubles (around £100).

Today’s attempted rallies were held to protest the law. According to reports, only nine people turned out to join the demonstrations.

The campaigners applied for permission to hold an event, which was initially granted. But when city officials revoked it at the last minute, the activists said a rally would still go ahead.

St Petersburg is one of four Russian cities to have introduced a law banning the promotion of gay and trans identities among minors.

The city now punished the promotion of such identities with a fine of 5,000 roubles, £107 or up to 50,000 roubles, £1,070 for holders of public posts. The fines are increased tenfold again for legal entities.