|© RIA Novosti. Andrey Stenin|
Gay rights in Russia, part I - I will remember the last few weeks all my life
By Tom Washington
September was a special month for Moscow’s gay community – in the space of days they went from ‘satanic’ to ‘sanctioned’ after the city’s overlord Yury Luzhkov was booted out of the doors of City Hall.
For Nikolai Alexyev, the leader of the city’s Gay Pride movement, it’s been a personal triumph in a month which began with him kidnapped as he attempted to board a Swissair flight but ending with him planning a permitted protest against the airline in central Moscow.
“I will never forget this month,” an emphatic Nikolai Alexeyev, leader of Moscow Gay Pride, told The Moscow News after the city’s first legal gay picket. “Not just because of the kidnapping, but because we also had the picket of Luzhkov and now this [picket of Swissair]. I will remember the last two or three weeks all my life.”
The old mayor’s fire and brimstone stance had brought Alexeyev into conflict with the authorities, and he was whisked away to Minsk by cops at Domodedevo airport while trying to fly to Switzerland.
It turned out later that mysterious text messages from his phone were fake and that he had never succumbed to pressure and dropped the complaint to the European Court of Human Rights against Moscow City for its Gay Pride ban.
A new dawn
After Luzhkov’s departure there was jubilation tempered with determination at a party to celebrate the first legally sanctioned demonstration Moscow’s gays had been able to stage.
“I think that today [three days post Luzhkov] is very important because a few days after his departure something is already different. It was not a gay parade,” Alexeyev said. “It was a human rights parade.”
“It is just another piece of evidence that this person [Luzhkov] was responsible for all those events. Earlier on I went to the deputy head of the Moscow Militia, [Viktor] Kozlov and he told me that if there is a political decision from the mayor ‘you can demonstrate and then not a single hair will fall from your head. Unfortunately we have an order to disperse the demonstration, we have to arrest everyone,’
“But as we have seen, as soon as Luzhkov left, the situation changed dramatically.”
Doing the dirty
After years of facing dirty tricks from City Hall, Alexeyev has his own theories about what did for Luzhkov.
And he fervently hopes it was a stitch-up for the long-serving politician.
“He was supposed to be given some kind of very high ranking official post. This is what they were obliged to give him if he left quietly and peacefully. But they did not want to do this, they understood that they can’t do this before an election,” Alexeyev suggested.
“Putin was his friend and he probably told him that if he goes directly against Medvedev, ‘I will help you and you will have to be very persistent.’ I am sure it was like that…Even though he denied meeting him.”
In September Luzhkov criticised president Medvedev’s halt to the new road through Khimki forest, earning a stern slap down from the president and seemingly setting off the touch paper to a TV campaign against the mayor and his wife Elena Baturina.
“I am sure it was an agreement between Putin and Medvedev, to make him cross the line and then sack him. I am convinced it was a coordinated action of both and the consequences are what we have now. A person who was at a very high political level and was fully cheated by the Kremlin. Now he is no-one.”
Tomorrow: why Alexeyev can't imagine leaving Moscow, and what needs to change to help the LGB community
Interview with Nikolai Alekseev - gay Russian activist lawyer who's changing the heart of Russia, Part 2