Gay activist Cyril Kalugin is arrested on Saturday.
Photo: Sergei Chernov / Source:

A number of LGBT activists have been arrested in St. Petersburg, Russia after they protested the banning by city authorities of a Pride march that had been set to take place this weekend.

Four Pride organisers were arrested on Saturday when they picketed against the ban outside the St. Petersburg City Administration at the Smolny complex.

They were held over the weekend and were expected to appear in court on Monday.

According to the founder of Moscow Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, this “is the first time in six years that gay activists have been detained for so long. In the past no Pride activists have been detained for longer than a day”.

He said that the activists will be provided with legal support in court.

Two other Pride organisers were also arrested on Saturday at Poliustrov Park, which was meant to be the venue for the Pride event.

Last week, Amnesty International condemned the city’s authorities for reversing their original decision to allow the Pride march.

An agreement had been reached earlier last week to hold the event at Poliustrov Park on the city’s outskirts, but on Thursday the authorities backtracked on the plan, citing numerous complaints against the decision as the reason for the change.

“It is time for St. Petersburg to portray itself as a global city where tolerance and respect for human rights are held high and where there is no place for discrimination,” said Sergei Nikitin, Director of the Moscow Office of Amnesty International.

St. Petersburg authorities have in the past suggested that Pride organisers hold the event in remote areas of the city, only to withdraw their agreement at the last minute.

“Such behaviour paints the St. Petersburg authorities in a very negative light, as they are flouting their international obligations to protect the basic human rights of all city residents,” said Nikitin.

In March, a new law was adopted in St. Petersburg, banning “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderness among minors” in the city.

Two months later, LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev was sentenced to a fine for such alleged “propaganda”, simply for holding up a banner quoting a famous Soviet actress who said “homosexuality is not a perversity, perverse is hockey on grass and ballet on ice”.

Since the adoption of the law, thousands of people all around the world, including some 30,000 Amnesty International activists have written to the St. Petersburg authorities, urging them to stop human rights abuses against LGBT people and to let the St. Petersburg Pride go ahead unhindered.

Last month, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called on Russia to explain how the country intended to uphold its obligations under human rights law after the adoption of similar “homosexuality propaganda” laws in several regions of the country.

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