LGBT+ and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been arrested during a one-man protest against Russia’s mistreatment of LGBT+ people, as the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Moscow.
Mr Tatchell was holding a banner supporting gay men who have been violently targeted in a purge in Chechnya while standing next to the statue Marshal Zhukov close to the Kremlin.
This is the campaigner’s sixth visit to Russia in solidarity with the LGBT+ freedom struggle there. He was previously arrested twice during protests in Moscow and suffered brain damage after being attacked by Russian neo-Nazis in 2007.
Peter Tatchell, speaking from Moscow before the protest, said:
“I was exercising my lawful right to protest, under the Russian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to protest in Articles 29 and 31. A one-person protest, which is what I did, requires no permission from the authorities and the police.
“Getting arrested is standard for Russians who protest for LGBT+ rights or against corruption, economic injustice and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its bombing of civilians in Syria.
“Unlike brave Russian protesters, I have the ‘protection’ of a British passport, which means I have been treated more leniently than they are.
“My fate was mild compared to what often happens to Russians who dare to challenge the Putin regime. I am awed by their courage.”
“President Putin has failed to condemn and act against the homophobic witch-hunts in Chechnya, which have seen scores of LGBT+ people arrested and tortured, with some even being killed.
“The singer Zelim Bakaev disappeared in Chechnya in August 2017 and has never been seen since.
“Russia’s 2013 anti-gay law against so-called ‘homosexual propaganda’ has been used to suppress peaceful LGBT+ protests, sack LGBT+ teachers and suppress welfare organisations that support LGBT+ teenagers.
“Little action has been taken by the Russian government and police to crack down on far right extremists who target LGBT+ people for violent and humiliating assaults – including the instigators of the current threats to bash and stab LGBT+ football fans at the World Cup.