Head of Moscow Pride Arrested
Russian GLBT equality advocate Nikolai Alekseev has been placed under arrest and has seemingly disappeared into a bureaucratic netherworld. A Sept. 16 PinkNews.com report suggests that he may be in the hands of the former KGB.
Alekseev was arrested Sept. 15 at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow, PinkNews reported. He was about to board a flight to Geneva when border police took him into custody. His whereabouts are currently unknown, even to himself; Alekseev did speak with the press after his arrest, reported The Advocate on Sept. 16. He said that he was not at the airport, but that he did not know where he had been taken.
Alekseev also said that authorities had demanded that he set aside a planned picket in protest of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and withdraw lawsuits filed with the European Court on behalf of Moscow Pride. Alekseev disclosed that prior to his attempt to board the flight, he had been warned not to take the trip to Geneva.
Luzhkov has consistently denied permission for Moscow Gay Pride to march. Protesters have marched anyway, sometimes being attacked by bystanders and detained by police. The most recent Moscow Pride action, last May, was the first one not met with police action, a May 29 Associated Press article reported, but Alekseev said at the time that the lack of police intervention was because of the way the demonstrations were carried out--with brief, unannounced displays of banners rainbow flags that ended at the sight of police.
"Our military planning was why there were no arrests," Alekseev told the press. "We had to organize these parades under strict secrecy, we turned away anyone we didn't know."
"Today it's like the Soviet era in Russia," said British-based GLBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who joined Russian equality advocates for the event. "Those who seek to hold a peaceful protest are being hunted by the police and the FSB security, like we were some kind of criminals or terrorists."
"The government is clearly losing to the the gay activists in the legal fight, so they resort to violence," GLBT equality advocate Nikolai Baev told the media in the wake of Nikoleev's disappearance. "I do not rule out homophobic insults, abuse and even torture against him."
PinkNews reported that friends of Alekseev went to the airport to try to obtain his release, but were told that he had been taken away. One official hinted that the FSB--the successor to the KGB--might have Alekseev in custody.