21st Sep 2019


EU diplomats urge Russia to allow gay pride march

EU diplomats have tried and failed to get Russia to allow a historic gay pride march in Moscow, but foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton is to keep up pressure.

The pride event - billed as the first ever to be held legally in the Russian capital - is planned to take place on 28 May.

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  • Leading Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseev being led away by police during a previous - unauthorised - pride event (Photo: Beenni)

The Moscow mayor's office is currently considering whether or not to allow it. But a report by the Interfax news agency in late April citing sources in the Moscow regional security department augurs badly for its chances of getting a permit.

"They are not likely to get it, even under the guise of a cultural and educational action," the security contact said.

A group of eight mostly liberal, left-wing and green MEPs in a letter to Ashton on 2 May said: "We call on you to make clear to Moscow city and regional authorities, via the delegation of the EU to the Russian federation, that the European Union holds freedom of assembly to be a fundamental right."

The MEPs cited two rulings by the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, one as recently as 11 April, obliging Russia to let pride marches go ahead in line with its commitments as a member of the Council of Europe.

A spokeswoman for Ashton told EUobserver the pride event featured prominently in a meeting of EU and Russian diplomats on 4 May in Brussels on the issue of human rights in general.

"The European Union delegation to the human rights consultations specifically raised with its counterparts the issue of the organisation of an LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender] pride event in Moscow, and regretted that the EU was unable to welcome the previously announced authorisation of the event," Ashton spokeswoman Maja Kocjancic said in a written statement.

"The European Union encouraged Russia to put an end to restrictions to freedom of assembly, not least when those are justified by discrimination or prejudice against certain social groups."

The Russian side said only that it would give an answer no earlier than 14 May, while Kocjancic note that the EU embassy in Moscow will "follow this issue closely."

She added that gay rights are an important part of Ashton's diplomacy.

"The EU is strongly committed to the entitlement of all persons to enjoy the full range of human rights without discrimination, and seeks to actively promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBT people through all the different tools available to it within its external action," she said.

For her part, Anna Sevortian, the director of Human Rights Watch's bureau in Russia, said Moscow authorities are "quite regressive" when it coms to LGBT rights.

"Many ordinary Russians wouldn't perceive it [the LGBT community] as normal. So gay people aren't that visible. In larger cities it is becoming a part of mainstream urban culture, but the transition is going pretty slowly. There is discrimination and crimes aimed at gay people."

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