Police in Moscow disrupted a planned IDAHOT event and arrested 17 gay rights activists.

Activists planned to release dozens of rainbow-colored balloons into the air to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), held annually on May 17.

The activists' flashmob balloon release was thwarted by crowd control police, who arrested 17 in central Moscow, Reuters reported.

A similar gathering in St. Petersburg – Russia's second city – went smoothly.

Lawmakers in 2013 approved a law that prohibits “gay propaganda” to minors, effectively banning public support for LGBT rights. Opponents of the law say it has legalized homophobia.

“I can say the situation is difficult,” an activist told Reuters, “because members of the LGBT community face lots of discrimination in their lives. In the professional sphere, you might have heard about a teacher being sacked for just being a lesbian while studying. On the street, people face violence.”