Despite the violence and official bans that have hit Moscow’s pride events over the past four years, Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, will stage its first pride parade on June 26.
The plan has the support of the city’s ombudsman, Alexey Kozyrev, who said Russians enjoy freedom of assembly and that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s war against that city’s pride is to the city’s “own detriment.”
The chair of the St. Petersburg Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival, Maria Efremenkova, told GayRussia.ru, “Everyone has the right to freedom of assembly and we intend to make use of this right for the LGBT community.”
She said if the city attempts to stop the parade, “we will still go in the streets to exercise our constitutional right.”
“We are very determined and any denial from the city authorities will be appealed though the Russian courts and up to the European Court of Human Rights,” Efremenkova said.
On Jan. 25, Moscow’s Luzhkov vowed to ban pride for a fifth year running.
“For several years, Moscow has experienced unprecedented pressure to conduct a gay pride parade, which cannot be called anything but a Satanic act,” he said. “We have banned such parades and will ban them in future as well. Everyone must accept this not as a theorem but as an axiom. It is high time to crack down with all the power and justice of the law rather than messing around with talk of human rights.”
In each of the past four years, Luzhkov sent riot police to violently arrest small groups of activists who ignored his bans.
Moscow Pride organizers have sued over the hostilities in a series of cases that have been merged into one at the European Court of Human Rights. On Jan. 19, the court approved a request from the Russian government to postpone the deadline for its response in the matter until Feb. 20.
Moscow’s fifth pride events will take place in late May, and another march will be attempted on May 29. It is unlikely the Euro Court will rule before that time.
U.S. gay activist Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s nephew, is expected to participate in this year’s events.