News Brief

Russia Bans One-Man Protest Outside Kremlin During World Cup

A veteran British human right campaigner and LGBTQ activist was detained in Moscow before the official opening of the World Cup soccer tournament as he protested what he said was the failure of the Russian authorities to investigate the torture of gay men in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Police arrested 66-year-old Peter Tatchell, according to Britain’s York Press, as he stood outside the Kremlin holding a placard with the words: “Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people.”

The British activist — who has become known for his high-profile confrontations in his efforts to advance his campaigns — was later released, saying he also wanted to highlight restrictions on the right to protest in Russia.

Any demonstration of two or more people requires an official permit.

“A one-person protest, which is what I did, requires no permission from the authorities and the police,” said Tatchell.

But the Russian police will often intervene anyway if someone tries to highlight a sensitive issue, regardless of how many people are involved, or if permission has been granted.

In this case, Tatchell was reportedly detained under a presidential decree prohibiting all protests near the Kremlin during the World Cup.

Tatchell was once beaten unconscious as he tried to make a “citizen’s arrest” of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe to face allegations of torture. And he said he suffered brain damage after being attacked by Neo-Nazis at a protest in Moscow in 2007.

He said he had been well treated while in custody this time, because of his British passport. “My fate was mild compared to what often happens to Russians who dare to challenge the Putin regime. I am awed by their courage.”

The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is accused of instigating a brutal crackdown on the LGBTQ community in the republic.

But he has responded by saying there are no gay people in Chechnya, a claim that the Russian federal authorities have, in effect, also backed.