Russia city backtracks on approval for gay rights march

Nikolai Alexeyev unauthorized gay rights activists rally in central Moscow on May 30, 2015 Image copyright DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Nikolai Alexeyev, here at an unauthorised rally in Moscow in 2015, called the decision to revoke permission "astounding"

A prominent Russian gay rights campaigner was delighted to announce that the city of Ivanovo had approved a march in favour of same-sex marriage, only to have the permission withdrawn the same day.

Nikolai Alexeyev, the founder of Moscow Pride, posted a letter from the deputy mayor on his VKontakte page on Tuesday, which said the parade and two other public meetings could go ahead, as long as they were moved to different locations in the city - to which Mr Alexeyev immediately agreed.

He had asked to hold marches in several other cities, including St Petersburg, but was turned down by all of them except Ivanovo.

Russian websites quickly picked up on the story, as permission for gay rights parades is rarely granted - especially since a 2013 law banned the "propagation of non-traditional sexual relationships" in the presence of children.

The law's author, high-profile anti-gay MP Vitaly Milonov, was also swift to react. He called on the provincial authorities to investigate, as an open-air parade was "bound to break the law". Mr Milonov told the RT television channel the approval may have been the work of a "gay secret agent" in city hall.

Local Senator Vladimir Bochkov joined in too, saying there must be a mistake, as the deputy mayor is a "serious person and unlikely to be capable of such filth".

Within hours, a city spokeswoman told Govorit Moskva radio station that the letter was a "mix up" and the deputy mayor had "no authority to grant permission" for the march. The go-ahead was revoked because the parade would be too close to schools and nurseries, she said. The acting mayor later said that a small gathering can proceed as "permission is not required, simply notification".

Mr Alexeyev told the Life news site that the mayor's office may have offered to move the march "in the hope that we would turn them down", but were caught out when he agreed. He dubbed the response the "most astounding in my 11 years of campaigning", and is threatening to go to court. As for the unfortunate deputy mayor, Life says he now faces an internal inquiry.

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