Russian riot police arrest gay protesters

Sat May 16, 2009 5:13am EDT

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(Adds quotes from Tatchell, more details)

MOSCOW, May 16 (Reuters) - Dozens of riot police broke up a gay rights demonstration on Saturday before the Eurovision Song Contest final in Moscow, grabbing protesters and throwing them into police cars and a waiting bus.

Those arrested for taking part in the small demonstration, which had been banned by city authorities, included British and Russian campaigners.

"There is no freedom for gays in Russia," British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell shouted as police bundled him away. "We call on President (Dmitry) Medvedev to meet with us."

Police pushed waiting reporters away as they arrested the gay and lesbian participants but there were no beatings.

Among those detained was Nikolai Alexeyev, a Russian gay rights leader. Alexeyev was walking with a person wearing women's clothes, whom he described as a friend. Police said they were arresting him for walking with a transvestite.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has taken a hard line against homosexual protesters, once describing a gay rights parade as "satanic". (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, writing by Michael Stott; editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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