Updated: Russian police arrest 14 gay rights campaigners in St Petersburg
Updated: 14:46 BST
Russian police have arrested and charged up to 14 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) activists who were attempting to hold a demonstration in St Petersburg.
An AP photographer reports that police arrested several others who were accused of attacking the LGBT campaigners.
Eye witnesses report that a number of individuals attacked the LGBT protestors while attempting to seize their banners.
Nikolai Alexeyev, the founder of the GayRussia website is among those who have been arrested by police and is posting messages onto Twitter from the police station. A recent tweet reports that there are “14 lgbt activists in police station. Two were beaten, Alexey Kiselev by police inside station and Alexander Sheremetyev by homophobe [sic].”
Mr Alexeyev reports that the gay rights activists will likely be taken to court but said “We will not surrender!”
He has tweeted that he has been charged with “illegal public protest and disobedience to police orders,” and adds: “Will be taken to court today!” If found guilty Mr Alexeyev and his fellow activists risk up to 15 days in prison.
Last month, police in Moscow 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 signatory 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.