LGBT+ and Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is in Moscow to protest at the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Speaking from the Russian capital Mr Tatchell, who was badly beaten by neo-Nazis in Moscow in 2007 while the police stood by and watched, said:
“I am here in Moscow to call out FIFA over giving the 2018 World Cup to a human rights-abusing country like Russia and FIFA’s failure to tackle homophobia and racism by football leagues, clubs, players and fans.
“It is appalling that this tournament is being held in a country where gay football fans are openly threatened that they will be hunted down, beaten and stabbed.
“FIFA has recklessly given the World Cup 2022 to Qatar where the human rights abuses are even worse.
“There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime like that of Vladimir Putin. LGBT+ people suffer state-sanctioned persecution and vigilante violence.
“LGBT+ Pride parades have been banned for 100 years in Moscow. Publicly advocating LGBT+ equality or giving affirmative advice to LGBT+ young people is a crime.
“I am fearful of arrest and violent attack but undeterred. Inspired by the campaigning and heroism of Russian LGBTs, I’m acting in solidarity with their battle for equal human rights.
Mr Tatchell added:
“Most LGBT+ people in Russia are too afraid to openly protest against their persecution. They fear arrest and being beaten by extremists. I am here in solidarity with their freedom struggle. I salute and support them.
“I am not telling Russians what to do. I’m supporting Russian LGBT+ advocates and human rights defenders. They want President Putin to uphold Russia’s constitution and its international human rights obligations, such as the European Convention on Human Rights, which Russia signed and pledged to uphold.