An unfolding of events in Russia's gay rights movement threatens to bring tensions to a dramatic climax at a popular European singing contest.

The annual Eurovision Song Contest and gay pride events will coincide this year in Moscow. Gay activists say they will ask Eurovision performers to wear lapel pins to show support for gay rights in a city where authorities have banned gay pride.

In December, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov as much as warned gay pride organizers not to stage their May 16 gay pride and march celebration.

During a press conference to welcome Eurovision to the city, Luzhkov 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.”

Luzhkov has denied gay activists a march license since a 2006 event turned violent between marchers and anti-gay protesters.

“Gay pride public action during the final of Eurovision will take place in any circumstances,” Gay rights leader Nikolai 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.”

Moscow Police Chief Vladimir Pronin says he backs the mayor and told the Interfax news agency that gay pride parades were “unacceptable.”

“It's unacceptable – gay pride parades shouldn't be allowed.”

“I positively agree with the Church, with the Patriarch, politicians, especially with [Mayor] Luzhkov, who are convinced that man and woman should love each other. It is established by God and nature,” he said.

Being gay is not illegal in Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church has strongly condemned gay rights groups and anti-gay sentiment appears to be on the rise.

Last May, four activists were arrested by police in an apartment after participating in two brief gay rights demonstrations in Moscow: They chanted “No to homophobia” and held pride flags outside the famed Tchaikovsky music conservatory and hung a banner that read “Rights for Gays and Lesbians – homophobia of mayor Luzhkov to be prosecuted” near City Hall.

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 rights activists claim authorities have shut down 167 gay-related events.

Luzhkov has also linked the gay pride parade 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.

It now appears gay activists in Moscow are positioning their movement for its most public display yet – the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest – and another near-certain clash with authorities and protesters.