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Article updated: 5/25/2013 11:06 AM

Russian police detain activists, foes at gay rally

Associated Press Orthodox Christians stand protesting against a gay rally in Moscow, Saturday, May 25. The Kremlin initiated a bill banning “propaganda of homosexuality” and routinely banned gay rallies and parade. Russian police say they detained at least 30 gay rights campaigners and their opponents at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow.

Associated Press Orthodox Christians stand protesting against a gay rally in Moscow, Saturday, May 25. The Kremlin initiated a bill banning "propaganda of homosexuality" and routinely banned gay rallies and parade. Russian police say they detained at least 30 gay rights campaigners and their opponents at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow.

 
Associated Press Riot police stop protesting Orthodox believers who are trying to stop Ukraine’s first gay pride demonstration in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25. About a hundred gay and lesbian Ukrainians and those from other countries took part in the gay pride rally, protected by hundreds of riot police. Antipathy toward homosexuals remains strong in Ukraine.

Associated Press Riot police stop protesting Orthodox believers who are trying to stop Ukraine's first gay pride demonstration in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25. About a hundred gay and lesbian Ukrainians and those from other countries took part in the gay pride rally, protected by hundreds of riot police. Antipathy toward homosexuals remains strong in Ukraine.

 
Associated Press Police detain participants in an unsanctioned gay rally in downtown Moscow, Saturday, May 25. The Kremlin initiated a bill banning “propaganda of homosexuality” and routinely banned gay rallies and parade. Russian police say they detained at least 30 gay rights campaigners and their opponents at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow.

Associated Press Police detain participants in an unsanctioned gay rally in downtown Moscow, Saturday, May 25. The Kremlin initiated a bill banning "propaganda of homosexuality" and routinely banned gay rallies and parade. Russian police say they detained at least 30 gay rights campaigners and their opponents at an unsanctioned rally in Moscow.

 
Associated Press Police detain an anti-gay protester wearing a Cossack hat and an Orthodox Christian icon during an unsanctioned gay rally in downtown Moscow, Saturday, May 25. The Kremlin initiated a bill banning “propaganda of homosexuality” and routinely banned gay rallies and parade.

Associated Press Police detain an anti-gay protester wearing a Cossack hat and an Orthodox Christian icon during an unsanctioned gay rally in downtown Moscow, Saturday, May 25. The Kremlin initiated a bill banning "propaganda of homosexuality" and routinely banned gay rallies and parade.

 
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By Associated Press

MOSCOW -- Gay-rights campaigners and their opponents clashed at an unsanctioned rally in the Russian capital on Saturday, but a heavy police presence in Ukraine kept the two sides apart at that country's first gay pride march.

Russian police said they arrested at least 30 gay rights campaigners and Christian Orthodox vigilantes in Moscow.

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The campaigners tried to unfurl banners denouncing Kremlin-backed anti-gay legislation in front of Russia's lower house of parliament, but they were attacked by vigilantes carrying religious icons and crosses.

The lower house in January voted in favor of a bill that makes public events and dissemination of information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors punishable by fines of up to $16,000.

The bill, still awaiting final approval, is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and church see as corrupting Russian youth and contributing to a wave of protest against President Vladimir Putin's rule.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia remains strong in the country. Government critics and gay rights activists claim that the Kremlin and the powerful Orthodox Church encourage vigilante groups to attack gay rallies and parades.

In Kiev, between 50 and 100 gay rights activists staged the ex-Soviet nation's first gay pride parade. They held banners reading "Homosexuality is no disease" and "Human rights are my pride."

Ukraine authorities on Thursday won a court order banning the rally from going ahead in the city center, saying it would disturb the annual Kiev Day celebrations. The activists moved to an area outside that zone, and authorities deployed hundreds of riot policemen to prevent any attacks by opponents.

Last year, Ukraine's gay and lesbian community canceled the event at the last minute when skinheads gathered at the planned location, intent on beating up the participants. Two leading activists were brutally beaten by radicals in subsequent weeks.

Despite condemnation from the West, the Ukrainian parliament is debating several anti-gay bills, including one that would make any public, positive depiction of homosexuality punishable by up to five years in prison.

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