Gay activists were pushed to the floor and pelted with eggs as they staged a kiss-in protest near the Russian State Duma today against plans for an anti-gay law.
Police broke up the demonstration in sub-zero temperatures and arrested the peaceful kissing protestors.
They were campaigning against a bill which had been due to go to the Duma, the lower house of parliament today (19 December). It would ban people spreading ‘propaganda about homosexuality to minors’.
In fact the debate on the bill has been postponed until 22 January but the activists decided to press ahead with their protest anyway.
Nikolai Alekseev of Gay Russia told Gay Star News: ‘There was about 15 people there. They were picketing the entrance to the Duma with placards and they decided to make this kissing protest in front of the entrance. There were about four or five couples, male and female, kissing.
‘Then this radical Orthodox activist attacked them physically and with eggs. It was quite violent. It was really like the Middle Ages I would say.’
Video footage shows them being hit with eggs and pushed. One couple is shoved to the ground and a bearded anti-gay protestor is seen brandishing a camera tripod at them.
Police bundle away the lesbian, gay and bisexual campaigners but Alekseev said officers were ‘very reluctant’ to arrest the radicals who were attacking them.
One of those arrested was the well-known journalist of ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Elena Kostyuchenko who initiated the protest.
GSN does not know if any of the LGBT campaigners arrested have been charged.
The proposed national ‘gay gag’ law was submitted by the legislative assembly of the Siberian city of Novosibirsk which already has a similar law locally.
If it is passed, the new national law would punish the ‘promotion of homosexuality among minors’ with fines of up to 500,000 roubles ($16,000 €12,000). But it is not clear what legal definition ‘propaganda’ or indeed ‘homosexuality’ would have, meaning the law’s impact could be very wide.
Similar laws already exist in the Russian regions of St Petersburg, Ryazan, Arkangelsk Kostroma, Magadansk, Samar, Bashkortostan, Krasnodar and Novosibirsk.
The bill is being pushed at the Duma by the United Russia party of President Vladimir Putin, which has a majority there.
However Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, also of United Russia, indicated he wasn’t aware of his own party’s plans when he said legislation like that wasn’t needed.
Medvedev’s comments might be one of the reasons why today’s debate in the State Duma was postponed. But international pressure against the legislation may also have played a part in the delay. The Duma was also discussing another controversial bill today and politicians may have wished to avoid running the anti-gay bill at the same time, fearing negative publicity abroad.
See footage of violence breaking out at the protest here: