Gay parade 'a satanic act'
Moscow - Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has vowed to block a gay parade planned for the Russian capital, describing the march as a "satanic act" and threatening to use the full force of the law to prevent it.
Gay activists, who say they are fighting for their constitutional rights in a deeply intolerant society, promised to go ahead with the May 29 march with or without the permission of city authorities.
Luzhkov, 73, has angered Moscow's gay community and drawn international criticism for his fiery anti-homosexual rhetoric and for sending riot police to break up earlier attempts to hold gay parades.
"For years, Moscow has faced unprecedented pressure to hold a gay parade, which can only be described as a satanic act," Luzhkov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency on Monday.
"We did not allow such a parade then and we will not allow one in the future," he said. "It's no time to mess around with talk of human rights. Rather we should crack down with all the power and justice of the law."
Luzhkov's stance against gay rights groups has earned wide backing among the country's elite. The late leader of Russia's influential Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexiy II, said that homosexuals suffered a mental disorder similar to shoplifters.
The gay scene in Moscow is relatively small and low profile with most clubs and bars aimed at the gay community known through word of mouth rather than being openly advertised.
Two Russian lesbians were refused a marriage licence in Moscow last year on the grounds that such a union must be between a man and a woman.
Leading gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev dismissed Luzhkov's comments as out of touch with contemporary Russian society and said the march would take place regardless of the position of City Hall.
"It's the same old medieval homophobic rhetoric," Alexeyev said in an e-mailed statement. "The fifth Moscow gay pride march will be held as scheduled on May 29."
Gay rights groups hope the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will soon rule Luzhkov's bans of earlier marches were illegal, forcing him to let future marches go ahead.
"We expect a unanimous decision in our favour," Alexeyev said.