Moscow police thwarted attempts to hold small gay pride rallies in the Russian capital, arresting around 40 of gay activists and anti-gay conservatives, according to a police spokesman.
Although police claimed to have acted even-handedly, a Reuters report suggested almost all of the approximately 30 gay rights protesters in the two rallies on Sunday (27 May) were detained, and many fewer of the roughly 50 Orthodox activists involved.
Organizers had failed to secure permission to hold a gay pride for the seventh year in a roll, but gay advocates still decided to gather and protest anti-gay legislation passed in several Russian cities.
A group of radical Orthodox activists carrying crosses and icons chanted 'Stop Sodom!' at them outside the Mayor's Office, trying to break up the gathering, throwing water, grabbing the demonstrators' rainbow flags, even trampling on gay demonstrators in front of television cameras.
Gay rights opponent Dmitry Tsarionov spoke to the crowd, in front of a sign that read 'Moscow is not Sodom.’
'I will not allow perverts to bring the wrath of God onto our city,' he said, as reported by The Associated Press. 'I want our children to live in a country where a sin that so awfully distorts human nature is not preached in schools.'
Fierce arguing between gay activists and Orthodox activists soon descended into violence, which ended with police swooping in.
Gay activists trying to hold another protest at city hall were again confronted by the Orthodox and later detained, including Moscow Gay Pride founder and protest leader Nikolai Alexeyev.
'It is a pity that Russia has finally turned into a totalitarian state. I have been arrested for opening my mouth in front of journalists,' Alexeyev wrote on Twitter.
He also expressed frustration at gays who did not come out for the march.
'Once more today I was convinced of the bravery of a couple dozen activists and the complete cowardice of all gay partiers,' he wrote in another tweet. 'They are the real pederasts.'
Still, the first activist fined for spreading 'gay propaganda' to minors said he was satisfied with the result of the 'gay parade' and plans to hold another one next year, to mark the 20th anniversary of the decriminalization for being gay.
In all, about 150 people were detained on Sunday in various anti-government demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, reported the Moscow Times.
A video showing the Moscow rallies and clashes on Sunday (in Russian):