Prominent Russian gay activist Nikolai
Alekseev (also spelled Alexeyev) was arrested Wednesday at Moscow's
Domodedovo airport, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Alekseev is the organizer of Moscow's
Gay Pride Parade. The annual event, which has been banned by Moscow
Mayor Yury Luzhkov, is more a protest event than a parade.
Alekseev was reportedly arrested as he
tried to board a Swiss Air Lines flight bound for Geneva and taken to
“At the moment I am in Minsk. I was
squeezed out to here,” he messaged the news agency.
“I was taken outside the city to some
small town police station and was questioned there.”
Gay activists have challenged the mayor
in the European Court of Human Rights for blocking their annual gay
pride event from taking place.
“They demanded that I sign a prepared
paper stating that I recall the case about gay pride parades from the
European Court due to a reached arrangement,” he said.
Colleagues say they fear the government
is turning to intimidation tactics in an effort to quiet the
“The government is clearly losing the
legal fight with gay activists, so they are resorting to violence,”
Nikolai Bayev said in a statement. “My guess is that Nikolai is
now under colossal psychological pressure. I do not rule out
homophobic insults, abuse and even torture.”
Sarah Ludford, the London LibDem MEP
and European Parliament member, said the arrest was of “deep
“State-sponsored homophobia, as shown
by bans on gay prides, is common in Russia and other parts of Eastern
Europe, and I fear that this arrest of a prominent gay rights
campaigner may be part of this,” she
told UK Gay News.
Officials from the International
Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) joined in urging for
Alekseev's immediate release.
“We are very concerned about Nikolai
Alekseev's safety and demand immediate and unconditional release of
the activist by the Russian authorities and immediate end of
intimidation and pressuring him to withdraw his ECHR complaints,”
the Brussels-based group said in an statement.
Activists are planning a protest
against Moscow Mayor Luzhkov on Tuesday. While other Russian cities
have taken similar steps to ban pro-gay events, Luzhkov has been
outspoken in his objections to gay rights, likened the parade to a
“Satanic act” and a “social plague” on par with drug abuse,
xenophobia and ethnic feuding.