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Moscow: Eighth Pride to go on in defiance of ban

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Once again, a Moscow court has upheld city authorities' decision to ban Pride, and once again, the event's organizers intend to stage a march and rally on Saturday (May 25) without official sanction.

Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev told Gay Star News (GSN) that he intends to appeal the ruling of Moscow's Khimki city court ruling to a regional court. He also said he received a letter from the European Court of Human Rights indicating that it will not intervene in the matter. 

After the mayor's office rejected this year's Pride application, security official Alexei Mayorov said Moscow Pride organizers were notified that the event had not received a go-ahead. “If the organizers still try to hold the event, a certain reaction will follow and the action will be thwarted," he warned.

Moscow Pride organizers have studiously defied repeated application rejections over the years and have staged guerilla-style protests on the city's streets.  

"If me or someone else is killed or injured in Moscow Pride on Saturday 25 May then the blood will also be on the hands of the Head of European Court of Human Rights and [its] judges," GSN quotes Alexeyev as saying. Saturday's event will reportedly include a protest in front of the Russian parliament to call for the withdrawal of a federal bill aimed at banning so-called propaganda of homosexuality nationwide. The bill overwhelmingly passed a first reading by a vote of 388 to one earlier this year. 

The proposed federal bill, introduced by Novosibirsk regional deputies, mirrors a number of anti-gay gag laws that have been enacted in about 10 other cities or regions, including St Petersburg. The measure calls for fines for violations of up to 5,000 rubles ($165) for individuals and up to 50,000 rubles for officials, while businesses or schools could face up to 500,000 rubles ($16,500) if they break the law. Activists are concerned that the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes propaganda could result in gays "being fined for demonstrating or even holding hands in public."

Just recently, the Council of Europe's secretary-general, Thorbjorn Jagland, issued a statement saying Russian authorities "have an obligation to (ensure) that LGBT people can express their views and (hold) demonstrations,"  adding that "this is a fundamental principle in the European Convention on Human Rights." Russia is a Council signatory.

Lasy year, Moscow's highest court upheld a decision to ban Pride in the Russian capital for 100 years.

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