Passengers landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport today were greeted with a massive 20-metre wide banner which could be seen seconds before their aircraft touched down.
The banner was part of a ‘day of action’ organised by gay activists in Moscow to protest the ‘forced marriage’ by Russia’s leading airline Aeroflot on one of its gay flight attendants, Maxim Kupreev – and to mark the 89th birthday of the airline.
Activists used a play on the Russian word ‘brak’ which has two meanings – marriage or mistake.
The message on the giant banner, which was 20 metres by 10 metres and weighted 70 kilos, was the form of a Twitter message read: ‘Equal Rights for Aeroflot Gays’
It also called for the resignation of airline boss Vitaliy Saveliev and made use of the word ‘brak’, saying ‘SU – 89 years of brak (SU is the international airline code for Aeroflot).
Originally, the demonstration was planned to be staged outside the Aeroflot offices in downtown Moscow. But when permission from the city authorities was refused, it was decided to switch the location to one of the city’s airports.
‘The police would have been waiting for us at the original location,’ Moscow Gay Pride founder Nikolai Alekseev explained to Gay Star News. ‘So when permission was refused we had to re-think our plans.
‘It seemed sensible to take our action to one of the airports, so Sheremetyevo was chosen and a site just outside the perimeter was chosen where passengers on landing aircraft could read our message about 15 seconds before landing,’ he said.
Activists set-up their banner about 12.15pm Moscow time (around an hour and a half ago) during the airport’s busiest time in daylight for flight arrivals.
They have left the banner in the field and have now made their way to the terminal buildings to continue their protest. Alekseev reported that there was no interference from the authorities.
Today’s issue of the leading Russian tabloid, MK, carried a story on Saveliev and his forced marriage. In the article a spokesperson for Aeroflot said that there was no need for an LGBT staff association as there were no gays employed by the airline.
UPDATE: At 2pm Moscow time, the four activists, who had braved the minus 20 degrees temperature for almost two hours at the end of the runway, arrived at the terminal building and aim to continue their demonstration ‘once we get warm,’ as one of them told Gay Star News by SMS.