Russia gay parade timed with Eurovision final

MOSCOW Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:23pm IST

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian gay pride events will coincide with Moscow's hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest this May and competitors will be asked to back homosexual rights onstage, Russian gay activists said on Sunday.

Moscow city authorities have repeatedly banned events organised by gay activists and those that have taken part have often attracted violent protests by anti-gay demonstrators.

While homosexual sex is legal in Russia, it faces strong disapproval from the influential Russian Orthodox Church.

"Moscow Pride will take place on May 16th, the day of the Eurovision song contest final," gay pride organisers stated on the website gaypride.ru.

This year's 54th Eurovision was already shaping up to be one of the most politically charged final in the history of the competition, one of Europe's most watched annual television shows.

Georgia, which fought a war against Russia last August, has already said it will pull out of the competition after the governing body banned its song for containing political references, perceived as a thinly-veiled swipe at Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.

Russia's own entrant has been criticised by some nationalists because the singer comes from Ukraine, another country which has tense relations with Moscow.

Russian gay rights Nikolai Alekseev was quoted on the site as saying of the timing decision:

"We believe this is the best way for those who support democratic values in Europe and who take part in the show to bring support to human rights campaigners in Russia."

The website said Russian authorities have banned 167 gay events in the past.

Eurovision performers will be asked to wear lapel pins to show support for gay rights during the live show.

The activists also say they will announce full details of their planned events later this month.

Russia is due to host the contest for the first time this year after Dima Bilan won the competition in Belgrade last year.

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