Peter Tatchell disrupted the opening of Valery Gergiev’s new London Symphony Orchestra concert season at the Barbican last night because of Gergiev’s support for Vladimir Putin.

Shortly after the orchestra assembled on stage, and before Gergiev made his entrance, the human rights campaigner walked on stage, dressed in a tuxedo, which led some in the audience to initially assume he was a Barbican spokesperson making an official announcement.

Mr Tatchell told the concert audience: “Valery Gergiev is a friend, ally and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders. Gergiev defends the new homophobic law that persecutes gay Russians. He sided with Putin against Pussy Riot. I ask you to oppose tyranny and show your support for the Russian people.”

Mr Tatchell was then taken off stage by security staff. After he exited the concert hall, he said: “Gergiev’s loyalty to Putin has been rewarded with personal honours and massive state grants for his pet projects. Gergiev is a great conductor but he colludes with a tyrant and shows little concern for freedom and equality.

“I may have annoyed some concert-goers but others seemed supportive. It was all over in two minutes. Gergiev’s performance was only briefly delayed. I never intended to disrupt the concert; only to make a short, symbolic statement.

He added: “It was a solo protest because other people were understandably anxious about being arrested or being beaten up by the Barbican’s security staff.”

Valery Gergiev is principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the world famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

Mr Tatchell was among hundreds to take part in a Whitehall protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws in August. He told PinkNews at the time: “It’s very important that we don’t just see this solely in terms of LGBT rights, the attacks upon the LGBT community in Russia are part of a broader attack on civil society. Freedom of expression for all Russians is under attack, we have to create a coalition between gay and straight people to fight the Putin regime.”