The Metropolitan Police in London are investigating a complaint of alleged assault on Russian gay activist and journalist, Nikolai Alekseev, by a member of the Mayor of Moscow’s staff.
The incident happened following the press conference given by the mayors of London, Berlin, Paris, Moscow and Beijing at City Hall in London on 28 February.
According to Mr. Alekseev, Sergi Tsoi, the press secretary of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, apparently took exception to him unfurling a flag featuring the rainbow-coloured Moscow Pride logo. Tsoi grabbed the flag and aggressively attempted to wrest it from Alekseev.
The incident was broadcast on Russian television last week. The Russian channel NTV devoted six minutes of prime time TV – the weekly news programme “Segodnya” on Sunday 4 March – to the mayor’s press conference, including Tsoi’s bid to wrestle the Moscow Gay Pride flag from Mr Alekseev.
To view the programme and the incident with Mr Alekseev, see:
Mr. Alekseev said he had reported the incident as a homophobic assault to the Metropolitan Police at Uxbridge police station in west London on Saturday 3 March. A spokesman for the police has confirmed to the editor of UK Gay News, Andy Harley, that officers are “investigating a report of an alleged assault at City Hall.”
Speaking from Moscow, Mr. Alekseev commented: “In Russia, people of such high standing get away with such incidents, but in Britain there is a slightly different perception of law.
“According to British law, Mr. Tsoi appears to have committed a crime. He should be held responsible for his actions. Although he has returned to Moscow, if he comes back to Britain he should be interviewed by the police and charges should be laid against him.
“Mr. Tsoi has used homophobic statements before. This time he has resorted to physical force, even in front of the media. He thinks himself untouchable. He assumed that he can get away in London with things that he can get away with in Moscow,” Mr. Alekseev added.
Gay human rights activist, Peter Tatchell of Outrage! in London, who was demonstrating with others outside City Hall against the Moscow Mayor’s banning of Moscow Gay Pride, described the incident as “thuggish bullying” when he saw the television footage.
“It reveals, yet again, the repressive, authoritarian nature of the Mayor of Moscow’s regime,” said Mr Tatchell.
“Mayor Luzhkov may be able to muzzle free speech and the right to protest in Moscow, but he cannot get away with such tactics in London.
“It was exceedingly discourteous for a member of Mr Luzhkov’s staff to abuse the hospitality of the Mayor of London in this way.
“The mistreatment of Mr Alekseev was filmed by TV crews. It provides irrefutable evidence. I hope the London police will press charges,” said Mr. Tatchell.
Nikolai Alekseev: email@example.com
“Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov routinely breaches Russia’s constitution and laws, and the European Convention, by depriving gay people of their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
“The real reason behind the ban of the first ever Moscow Gay Pride, held in May 2006, is not because the Mayor is concerned for the security of the participants, as he claims. The ban is motivated by his deep-rooted hatred toward homosexual people.
“Recently the Moscow Mayor said that ‘gay parades are nothing else but satanic’ and promised to ban this year’s Moscow Gay Pride march, scheduled for May, 27.
“The legal case against the ban of the first gay pride in the Russian capital is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Due to the length of the procedures, the decision will not be handed down before the Moscow Gay Pride march this year.
“Mr. Luzhkov frequently uses insulting statements against homosexual people in his speeches. He uses every possible vile argument to discredit the LGBT movement and incite hatred towards LGBT people.
“In May last year, the homophobic hysteria of the Moscow Mayor led to massive violations of the rights of homosexual people in Russia. He gave a carte blanche to fascists, ultra-nationalists and religious extremists to attack gay people without fear of being punished.
Whatever the stance of the Moscow Mayor, we are going ahead with plans for a second Moscow Gay Pride on 27 May,” concluded Mr Alekseev.
Yuri Luzhkov bans Moscow Gay Pride, due 27 May
Gays denounced as “satanic,” “unnatural” and “deviations”
Russian gay leader Nikolai Alekseev expressed “delight” at the “massive coverage in the Russian media” of Wednesday’s London protest against Moscow’s notoriously homophobic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov.
Mr Alekseev joined the protest, alongside the openly gay Green Party member of the London Assembly, Darren Johnson, and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
The protest took place outside City Hall in London on Wednesday 28 February. It was coordinated by LGBTI human rights group OutRage!.
Protesters waved placards with the slogans: “Mayor of Moscow! Mayor of hate!,” and “Luzhkov! Gays aren’t satanic, you are!” and “Stalin! Luzhkov! No to Homophobia!”
Mr Luzhkov was in London for a summit with the mayors of Paris, London and Berlin. He recently denounced gay pride celebrations as “satanic.” He has also condemned same-sex relationships as “unnatural”, “licentiousness”, deviations”, “blasphemy” and “deadly moral poison.”
“Russian media reporting of the protest has been very beneficial. It has put gay rights on the political agenda in Moscow,” said Mr Alekseev.
“The TV and press coverage has generated a big public debate. It is helping to break down homophobic attitudes.
“The demonstration was very important and effective. It helped keep the pressure on the Moscow Mayor. The protest was widely shown on Russian TV. The issue of gay rights got through to millions of Russians. This is a very positive achievement.
“The protests are working. We saw Luzhkov’s position change for the better during his visit to London. Contrary to his usually strident homophobic outbursts, he did not condemn homosexuality as unnatural, satanic or against religion. His criticisms were relatively mild. This time he said only that homosexuality is ‘wrong and unusual.’
“Very significantly, Luzhkov told the post-summit press conference at City Hall that if the courts decide a gay pride march should be allowed in Moscow then he will not block it. But I wonder whether this was just said to satisfy a western audience. Will he say the same thing back in Russia? I am not sure,” added Mr Alekseev.
A similar view was echoed by fellow protester, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!:
“The fact that Mayor Luzhkov is now saying less vicious things about gay people shows he is feeling the heat. He seems less confident in his homophobic stance,” said Mr Tatchell.
“He has been unnerved by the criticisms and protests. He seems to realise that his extreme homophobia is creating problems.
“Mr Luzhkov is concerned about his negative public image in the West and how this might affect western investment, tourism and cultural relations with Moscow. He is vulnerable to pressure,” concluded Mr Tatchell.
Immediately after the press conference at City Hall ended, Mr Alekseev incurred the wrath of Luzhkov’s minders. He unfurled a rainbow flag with the Moscow Gay Pride logo, as Mr Luzhkov was giving an interview to the Russian media.
“I was about two or three metres behind Luzhkov,” recalls Mr Alekseev.
“This infuriated his staff. Luzhkov’s press secretary, Sergei Tsoi, who is well-known for his homophobic remarks, ordered me to put away the flag. When I refused, he tried to grab it from me by force. Tsoi threatened me. He said they will not leave it like that. I interpreted this as an implied threat.
“I later received two phone calls that seem to have been from someone in Mayor Luzhkov’s entourage. The calls threatened that ‘we will get you.’ It is quite worrying,” confided Mr Alekseev.
Mayor Luzhkov had only recently announced that he was banning the 2007 Moscow Gay Pride parade, scheduled for 27 May. Last year’s march was also banned and some marchers were beaten, tear-gassed and arrested by the Moscow riot police, the OMON.
Mr Alekseev is currently appealing to the European Court of Human Rights against Mayor Luzhkov’s ban on last year’s Moscow Gay Pride. He is also suing the Mayor of Moscow for libel after the Mayor in January this year labeled Moscow Gay Pride as “satanic”.
“Whatever the stance of the Moscow Mayor, we are going ahead with plans for a second Moscow Gay Pride on 27 May,” said Mr Alekseev.
“On behalf of Russian gays and lesbians, I would like to thank OutRage!, particularly Peter Tatchell and Brett Lock, for organising the protest. My thanks also to everyone who attended, despite the appalling weather and transport problems,” said Mr Alekseev.