MOSCOW -- Russian gay activists vowed to demonstrate in Moscow despite a ban by city authorities, a year after a similar attempt led to arrests by police and attacks by right-wing nationalists.
The demonstration planned for today would mark the 14th anniversary of Russia's decriminalization of homosexuality.
Despite the decriminalization, intolerance of homosexuality remains high in Russia. It is denounced by the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, and President Vladimir Putin in his annual news conference implied that gays were undermining the country by not procreating.
Right-wingers punched demonstrators at last year's gay rights event as elderly spectators shouted. Police broke up the fights and arrested some demonstrators.
This year, the activists applied for permission to march to the Lubyanka Stone, a monument commemorating victims of Soviet oppression that stands near the former KGB headquarters. But city authorities refused permission, saying the planned march was a threat to public order.
Nikolai Alexeyev, a leader of the Gay Russia movement, announced yesterday that demonstrators would instead gather outside the Moscow mayor's office to try to hand over a letter signed by scores of European lawmakers supporting gays' right to demonstrate. He said he expected 150 to 200 people.
City police spokesman Viktor Bryukov said afterward that "the capital's police will halt any attempt at provocation," the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
The only Russian politician to publicly support the demonstration comes from an unexpected wing: the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party.
"If they can prohibit demonstrations on the basis of sexual elements, then tomorrow they might not like your political orientation," said party lawmaker Alexei Mitrofanov, who also suggested that allowing a gay demonstration would be good for Russia's bid for the 2014 winter Olympics.