Moscow city officials have rejected an application for a gay pride parade to be held in the city center later this month, citing a risk of public disorder, organizers said.
Gay rights activists had applied to hold a parade called "Moscow Gay Parade: Homosexuality in the History of World Culture and Civilization," which they expected would draw more than 5,000 people to a city park near the Kremlin on May 28. Previous attempts to hold a sanctioned parade have been banned and violently broken up, AFP reports.
Former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, who was fired in September, called gay pride events "satanic.” His successor Sergei Sobyanin has allowed opposition activists to hold authorized demonstrations, and there were hopes that he would sanction the parade.
But on Tuesday, the group led by prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev received a letter from city council saying that "Moscow city government considers it is justified in not permitting the announced event to go ahead," organizers said in a statement, AFP reports.
The letter reportedly said that public gatherings could be banned to keep order, preserve morality or protect the rights and freedoms of others. Moscow authorities said they had received letters from religious and traditional groups threatening protests if the event was not banned.
"In the opinion of many correspondents, holding the event could lead to a wave of protests, which could grow into group violations of public order," they said.
The decision by Moscow’s city council ignores a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which said that the city had illegally banned three pride events between 2006 and 2008.
Alexeyev told the Associated Press that this was the sixth time authorities had refused the request for a rally, and that activists would go ahead with a peaceful demonstration despite the ban.
“Of course it is illegal because the [European] court decision, which was clear in its interpretation of article 11 of the European convention, and which we are quoting as the basis for this. It doesn’t even have any basis in Russian legislation,” Alexeyev told The Moscow News.
Alexeyev told Interfax that “all responsibility for possible riots in the center of Moscow on May 28 lies with the authorities and mayor Sobyanin personally.”
A gay pride parade in October was marked by violent clashes between police and some 6,000 anti-gay rioters, DPA reports. The riots left 150 people injured, most of them police officers, and caused millions of dollars of damages.