LGBT political activists in Russia are reporting abuse and attacks at Pro-Democracy rallies across the country.
On Christmas Eve tens of thousands of protesters braved the sub zero temperatures across Russia to protest against the alleged election fraud, corruption and to demand more freedom and democracy.
Organisers claimed that over 120,000 people took part in the Moscow protest alone and even more across the cities of Russia. These protests are the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. However it seems that the organisers of these demonstrations do not welcome the participation of LGBT people as part of their protests.
In St Petersburg Igor Kochetkov, chairperson of the Vyhod LGBT Organisation and the Russian LGBT-Network, was prevented by the opposition movement from speaking at the demonstration panel, according to reports by both Kochetkov via his Twitter account, confirmed by Nikolai Alekseev, chairman and founder of GayRussia and Moscow Pride.
Kochetkov was part of the St Petersburg’s organising committee of the demonstration and was due to give a speech when he was told minutes before attempting to go on stage that the opposition 'is not supporting your movement and you won’t be allowed to speak.'
LGBT-Network says in Novosibirsk, Russia’s fourth largest city, a man holding a rainbow flag was attacked by Russian Nationalists participants who tore the flag from his hand.
He was then taken away by the police out of the demonstration and told he will not be allowed to use the rainbow flag in the protest any further.
Alekseev reports that in the city of Lipetsk a group of LGBT activists attempting to participate with a banner reading 'gays and lesbians for fair elections' were intercepted by the police and told that their slogan is not 'in accordance' with the aim of this event and prohibited from using it further. The police officer mockingly added: 'Keep it for your gay parade later.'
Nikolai Alekseev further attests that he asked for and was denied permission from speaking publicly in the initial demonstration of the opposition movement held on 10 December in Moscow.
Furthermore, on this specific demonstration a lesbian speaker named Nadezhda Tolokno was jeered off the panel by Nationalists participants who attempted to attack her physically.
In a conversation, recently leaked to the press, between Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Russian opposition movement and other high ranking organisers, he referred to her 'Nazis were whistled off and the same with lesbians', adding: 'a lesbian, from LGBT, was talking there and she was told to fuck off.'
Another opposition activist Bozhena Rynska asked in the conversation 'why the fuck did I see placards of gays and lesbians at the demonstration?' In the conversation Nemtsov further used extremely homophobic remarks comparing the Putin Youth Movement to 'prison faggots' and calling Leonid Parfyonov (a famous TV presenter in Russia) a 'pederast' which is a highly derogatory word often used in Russia to mean merely 'gay'. While Tolokno was met with jeers: 'Russia and Moscow without pederasts', according to Nemtsov the 'crowd at the event behaved normally.'
Speaking with Dan Littauer, reporting for GSN, Nikolai Alekseev said that he found this homophobic language totally unacceptable: 'I find it completely outrageous that the incidents happened during the opposition rallies and then not a single high ranking organiser of these events denounced these attacks and harassment of LGBT people.'
Alekseev stressed the organisers should be happy with the participation of the Russian LGBT communities; 'they should help and create a secure participation and atmosphere for LGBT people in such demonstrations.'
He added: 'I agree that the elections were not fair and new elections should be held. At the same time Gay Russia, the Organising Committee of Moscow Pride and myself have decided that we are not going to officially endorse such demonstrations because the people who are organising them are not any better than the current Russian government with regards to LGBT tights.'
Commenting on these events, Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who is a long-time supporter of the Russian democracy movement and who was badly beaten by Russian nationalists at the attempted 2007 Moscow Gay Pride Parade said: 'The censorship and ejection of LGBT campaigners from the democracy demonstrations is shameful.
'It shows that many of the so-called democracy leaders are not committed to universal human rights. They are Putin-lite. They want to moderate the Kremlin regime, rather than change it. If they came to power, LGBT Russians would gain little.'
Reading the report of Gay Star News, Louis-Georges Tin, president of the IDAHO Committee remarked: 'Gay and lesbians are excluded by the pro-democracy movement, as they used to be by the pro-Putin movements. These pro-democracy protesters want to replace Putin… and act just like him. They want rights for themselves, for not for the others. Their attitude sheds a new light on their movement, and this is very shocking.'