Gay activists in Russia are preparing for a May 2009 Gay Pride march and anti-homophobia conference in Moscow, despite being denied a parade license since 2006.

Tensions remain high between gay groups and authorities in Russia after several hostile incidents.

Last June, Moscow's Gay Pride event resembled more a game of cat and mouse as gay activists eluded police and anti-gay foes in two gay demonstrations.

A small group of protesters led by gay rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev (sometimes spelled Alekseev) held pride flags and banners outside the famed Tchaikovsky music conservatory. They chanted, “No to homophobia,” and, “Tchaikovsky was gay.” A second demonstration was held at a building in front of Moscow's City Hall where a banner was hung reading “Rights For Gays and Lesbians – homophobia of mayor Luzhkov to be prosecuted.” The police quickly pulled it down. Hundreds of balloons were set free over Moscow.

Both demonstrations lasted only minutes before police arrived on the scene. The brevity and undisclosed location of the demonstrations allowed activists to elude the police. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who denied the group a parade license and has called homosexuality “satanic,” called the actions “criminal.”

Police, however, managed to arrest four gay activists upon returning to their apartment. Witnesses at the scene told that the police forced their way into the apartment by breaking down the door. The four members were held in custody overnight and charged with “taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration and for not obeying an order from the police.”

“The police chief arrived to witness his incompetence in [not] being able to prevent our two actions,” said Alexeyev.

And in October, authorities in St. Petersburg shut down a gay and lesbian film festival as it was set to open by declaring the nightclubs (The Place and Sochi) where the films were to be screened fire hazards, festival organizer Irina Sergeeva told

It's believed that authorities also pressured the state-run Cinema House and a private theater to cancel their commitments to host the event, which pushed the first-ever festival into bars and nightclubs.

State Artist of Russia Nikoli Burlyaev had urged authorities to ban the gay film festival, calling gays “perverts” and “ill.”

Gay Pride organizers have set aside May 16 for their fourth attempt at staging a Gay Pride march through the streets of Moscow. Mayors from several European capitals have been invited to attend the festivities – Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit included.

Activists hope gays and lesbians attending the Eurovision song contest finale in Moscow will attend the Gay Pride parade.

“[W]e have big plans for next May. We hope that we will finally get the permission for the human rights march of sexual minorities,” Alexeyev told “The Pride organizers are ready to cooperate with police in order to provide security to the participants of the event.”