Seventeen gay activists were arrested at a May Day rally in St Petersburg after unfurling rainbow flags.
The campaigners were detained by police in the Russian city yesterday (1 May) at a protest attended by 300,000 people, led by the ruling United Russia party, as well as Communist and nationalist groups.
‘The first activists who unfurled their flags were detained. Some tried to raise posters, they were also detained,’ Yury Gavrikov, a local gay rights leader, told The Guardian.
‘Two police officers would grab each person, with no warning.’
In February, St Petersburg passed an ‘anti-gay propaganda’ law which can be used to gag any public discussion of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues or events targeted at gay and trans people.
Last month, a national anti-gay bill, similar to the one passed in St Petersburg, was submitted to the Russian parliament by lawmakers from the Novosibirsk region.
The Russian states of Arkhangelsk, Ryazan and Kostroma have already adopted similar anti-gay laws.
The laws have been roundly condemned by Europe, the US State Department, human rights organizations and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender campaigners and individuals as well as their straight allies.