Gay activists in Moscow staged a brief gay pride parade Saturday in defiance of city officials who have banned such demonstrations since 2006, reported.

During two separate events gay and lesbian activists marched for greater rights.

About 25 people carrying banners and shouting “No discrimination on the grounds of orientation” marched for about 10 minutes on The Arbat, a shop-lined street popular with tourists visiting Moscow.

Later in the day, activists, including British gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell, unfurled a 20-meter long rainbow flag in northwestern Moscow and chanted “Russia without homophobes!”

Gay activists managed to escape the watchful eyes of the police by announcing they would hold their parade outside the offices of the European Commission and switching locations at the last minute.

Nikolai Alekseev, head of Moscow Pride, apologized to journalists who fell for the ruse.

“We hope you understand that given the very particular context we have to face here in Moscow where the police is watching gay activists and journalists and our will to avoid any arrest and any beatings, the way we conducted the 5th Moscow Pride attempt was the most appropriate,” he said.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov vowed in January to “crack down” on gay pride parades.

“For several years, Moscow has experienced unprecedented pressure to conduct a gay pride parade, which cannot be called anything but a Satanic act,” Luzhkov said. “We have prevented such a parade and we will not allow it in the future. Everyone needs to accept this as an axiom.”

“It is high time to crack down on the parade with all the power and justice of the law, instead of talking about human rights,” he added.

Despite the ban, gay activists have managed to stage small but politically effective protests. Last year, demonstrators gathered near Moscow State University where they chanted “Homophobia is the shame of Russia!” and “Equal rights for everyone!” They were quickly surrounded by police who violently arrested the protesters.

On Friday, a Moscow judge rejected a challenge to the city's ban on gay rights demonstrations.