British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was arrested by Russian police at Red Square Thursday, as the World Cup soccer championship was about to get underway in the country. Tatchell unfurled a poster with the words, "Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people," as part of a one-man protest.
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Police informed Tatchell, "During the World Cup it is forbidden to hold any action like this against Putin, against all these things." Tatchell was told to stop or be detained. It was not the first run-in Tatchell has had for his activities in Russia. He has been arrested twice previously and was severely beaten by right-wing protesters during a gay pride parade in 2007. Tatchell claims the beating left him brain damaged.
No gays in Chechnya?
His reference to Chechnya is based on accounts that homosexuals in the conservative southern Russian republic are regularly arrested, tortured and in some cases killed. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has regularly dismissed the claims, saying they cannot be true because there are no gays in Chechnya.
In 2013, Russia passed a law forbidding the promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations," and widely seen as a tool to stifle the country's gay rights movement. Although Russian authorities have said gay and lesbian fans are welcome to attend the World Cup and should feel safe, some LGBT advocates have reported that they have received violent threats ahead of the event.
js/msh (AP, AFP)