Russian police detain gay activists in Moscow

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Russian police on Tuesday detained around 10 gay activists as they gathered in central Moscow to demonstrate against Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov known for his openly homophobic views, an AFP correspondent reported.

Police rounded up protesters at a banned demonstration in front of the mayor's office in the city centre and detained around 10 activists, including Nikolai Alexeyev, the chief organiser of Moscow's gay pride marches.

Some of the activists, who gathered to mark Luzhkov's 74th birthday, shouted slogans including "Homophobic mayor resign" and "Flat cap, homo, happy birthday!"

Police massively outnumbered the protesters and an AFP journalist covering the protest was briefly detained. Alexeyev was released later in the day, he said, speaking on Russia's popular Echo of Moscow radio.

Earning the nickname "kepka", or "flat cap" for his customary headwear, Luzhkov has run the city of 12 million for the past 18 years but has recently fallen out of favour with the Kremlin. He is under pressure to resign.

He's now on vacation in Austria and is expected back in the Russian capital next week.

Luzhkov has repeatedly banned gay rights parades in Moscow, calling them "satanic", and riot police have in the past repeatedly broken up unsanctioned protests by Alexeyev and international gay rights activists.

© 2010 AFP

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