Gay rights in Russia….

A group of Russian and EU activists, including several members of the EU and national parliaments, attempting to deliver a letter protesting the ban on this summer’s Moscow Gay Pride Parade to Russian officials, were set upon and beaten by skinheads and religious and nationalist hoodlums on Sunday, while Riot Police stood by.

Following the beatings, the pro-gay activists were arrested. For after all, we can’t have a person’s supposedly guaranteed right to freedom of expression upsetting rightwing, religious fanatics’ delicate sensibilities concerning teh gay, can we?

The attacks followed upon an earlier assault the night before in Siberia against a senior British diplomat. While they’re being reported together, it’s unclear if the two incidents were actually related. (Also, from my reading of events, the chronology in the following report seems muddled.)

From the Guardian:

A senior British diplomat has been beaten by two unidentified assailants while on an official trip in provincial Russia. Nigel Gould-Davies, first secretary at the British embassy in Moscow, was attacked at 1am on Saturday as he walked across the theatre square in the Siberian city of Chita, police said.

Mr Gould-Davies needed hospital treatment for bruises to his face. His glasses were broken in the attack and he was unable to see his assailants, police said.

The beating is the second assault on Britons in Russia in two days, and follows an attack on Sunday by anti-homosexual protesters on the British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Mr Tatchell was punched, knocked to the ground, and kicked while protesting about gay rights with a group of European parliamentarians. Yesterday embassy officials described the attack on Mr Gould-Davies as a random assault carried out by drunken teenagers celebrating the end of the school year.

In Moscow, three Russian gay activists appeared in court yesterday following Sunday’s demonstrations, which saw the arrest of 25 campaigners, including the German Green MP Volker Beck and the Italian MEP Marco Cappato.

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, yesterday wrote to Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, urging him to lift the ban on gay parades in the city that prompted Sunday’s protest. He also called for all charges against the gay rights demonstrators to be dropped. “I am writing to convey my deep concern at the reported physical violence against and arrest of Peter Tatchell,” Mr Livingstone wrote, adding that gay parades were now “the practice in most cities around the world”.

Yesterday Mr Tatchell said he was still recovering. He said the Moscow police had “stood and watched” while far-right skinheads kicked him to the ground and punched him. “Even today I’m woozy. My eyesight is pretty poor. It’s difficult to see clearly,” he told the Guardian.

“It’s almost on a par with the beating I received at the hands of Robert Mugabe’s thugs in 2001. This time I wasn’t knocked unconscious and left in the gutter. But I ended up with a much bloodier face and severe bruising and swelling.”

Mr Tatchell yesterday registered a complaint about his treatment with Moscow police. Officials, however, defended the actions of riot police. “The city authorities did the right thing by prohibiting the parade and thus preventing clashes between opponents who are numerous in this country and advocates of sexual minorities,” said Mikhail Solomentsev, a spokesman for Moscow’s mayor. [emphasis mine]

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