Russian gay activists joined thousands of people to protest President Vladimir Putin yesterday (15 September).
Despite Kremlin efforts to muzzle the voices of the opposition, the major protest in Moscow showed the activists’ resilience.
Gay activists met with other liberals on the capital’s boulevards, chanting ‘Russia without Putin’, and ‘We are the power here!’
The protestors remained peaceful as about 7000 police officers stood guard along the route of the march, while a police helicopter hovered overhead.
Opposition activist Alexander Shcherbakov said: ‘We have to defend out rights, which we are deprived of, the right to have elections.
‘We’re deprived of honest elections and an honest government.
‘I’m coming to show that and to demonstrate that the people are opposed. I’m opposed to illegitimate government and illegitimate elections.’
Some demonstrators released balloons decorated with ski masks like the ones worn by the Pussy Riot punk band, three of whose members have been jailed for singing a pro-gay anti-Putin protest song against Putin.
Others wore T-shirts demanding the release of 17 protestors facing trial over a rally on 6 May that ended in clashes with police.
Speakers at the rally criticized Putin over laws which include increasing protestor fines, stiff punishment for defamation, and new controls on foreign-funded campaign groups’ aid.
City authorities arrested liberal leader Sergei Udaltsov and several others at the end of the protest, demanding the eight hour demonstration end at 10pm.
Protestors say Putin could now extend his rule of Russia to 24 years if he wins another term when his mandate expires in 2018.
Putin largely dismissed the protest, saying it was a small minority of Russians who did not back his presidency.
A spokesman for the president said he was too busy at work at his residency in Sochi to pay attention to the rally.
In March 2012, a law was adopted in St Petersburg, banning ‘propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderness among minors’ in the city.
Since the adoption of the anti-homosexuality law, thousands of people all around the world, including the Council of Europe, have urged them to stop human rights abuses.