The head of the Council of Europe has asserted that Russia must allow demonstrations by LGBT people, and that it should protect the rights of citizens wishing to hold public rallies.

Over recent months, there has been an increase in violence against LGBT people, a crack down on some gay pride marches, and laws are being considered to make gay “propaganda” illegal.

Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, said: “Authorities have an obligation also to (ensure) that LGBT people can express their views and (hold) demonstrations,” Russia is a signatory of the Council.

“This is a fundamental principle in the European Convention on Human Rights,” he said at a press conference, reports Reuters.

A gay pride rally in St Petersburg last week was interrupted by violent anti-gay protesters, and the demonstration was only able to go on for minutes before attendees were evacuated.

The organisers of several gay pride events in the Russian capital city Moscow, last week filed a complaint with a local court, as the applications to hold the events were denied. Activists have said they will hold the rally anyway, despite warnings from officials that they should not.

On Tuesday, Russian Orthodox church leader Patriarch Kirill, said that homosexuality is a “sin before God.”

A law in the city of St Petersburg law equates homosexuality with paedophilia and was passed by the city on February 29 of last year – despite more than 270,000 people signing an online petition against the measure.

Last year, St Petersburg authorities permitted a rally against homophobia, but its participants were attacked by masked thugs, none of whom were arrested.

In January, the Russian State Duma adopted the first reading of a homophobic censorship bill which would impose federal sanctions for the promotion of “gay propaganda”, similar to those passed in several regions of Russia, including St Petersburg. 

Last week, a photograph emerged which was believed to show the 23-year-old gay man tortured and killed in a brutal attack in the Russian town of Volgograd. He was raped with beer bottles, and killed, after revealing he was gay.