Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has as much as warned gay pride organizers not to stage their May 16 gay pride and march celebration planned to coincide with the finale of the Eurovision song contest to be held in the city, reports the Interfax news agency.

During a Wednesday press conference Luzkhov said, “Sexual minorities, they are free. We do not allow gay parades. ... Entertain yourself, no problem, but not on the streets, squares, marches and demonstrations. We never introduced any limitations in their [gays and lesbians] respect except public actions.”

Luzkhov spoke just hours after Moscow officials had presented symbolic keys to representatives of the Eurovision song contest.

The mayor is not issuing empty threats; he has denied gay activists a march license since 2006.

Last June, 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, in defiance of Luzhkov's ban of the event. They chanted, “No to homophobia,” and “Tchaikovsky was gay.” A second demonstration was held at a building in front of Moscow City Hall where a banner was hung reading “Rights For Gays and Lesbians – homophobia of Mayor Luzhkov to be prosecuted.” Both events lasted only minutes before the police arrived.

Four gay activists were arrested after they had fled the demonstration. Witnesses at the scene told that the police forced their way into an apartment where they had barricaded themselves 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.”

Moscow gay activists now appear headed for yet another clash with officials in May.

“Gay pride public action during the final of Eurovision will take place in any circumstances,” Alexeyev told gayrussia.ur. “We are not going to surrender our right to freedom of assembly and expression because it is given to us not by Mayor Luzhkov, but by the Constitution of this country.”

Earlier in the month, Luzhkov shocked the world when just days after World AIDS Day he linked the gay rights movement to the spread of HIV.

“We have banned, and will ban, the propaganda of sexual minorities' opinions because they can be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infection,” the mayor said at a December 4 conference in Moscow titled HIV/AIDS in Developed Countries.