Four arrests in Russian LGBT protest

Saint Petersburg (AFP) –


Four people were arrested Friday during a protest by LGBT activists in central Saint Petersburg, Russia's second city, an AFP reporter said.

Around 10 people took part in the protest as they marked international day against homophobia and transphobia and were quickly surrounded by a group of riot police.

"We want to draw attention to the problems of the LGBT community. They are clamping down on us and don't allow us to defend our rights," one of the group told AFP.

Moscow city hall had Wednesday rejected four requests for demonstrations, including a gay-pride march, made by Nikolai Alexeyev, a gay community leader in Russia who said the city authorities had rejected such rallies for 14 years.

Last November the European Court of Human Rights rebuked Moscow for a ban on holding LGBT assemblies as a violation of human rights and freedom of assembly.

Russia has taken a conservative line on sexual minorities and homosexuality was deemed a crime until 1993 and as a mental illness until 1999.

Moscow also has since 2013 punished with fines and prison terms anything authorities deem gay "propaganda" anywhere children might see it.

There have furthermore been several reported cases over the past two years of gay people being jailed or killed in the Russian republic of Chechnya.