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Russian gay activists on Tuesday were attacked by opponents when they tried to stage a kissing protest near the parliament building ahead of discussion of anti-gay legislation this week.
About 20 gay activists gathered near the Duma lower house of parliament building in central Moscow where they immediately faced about 15 anti-gay protesters who attacked them and threw eggs and ketchup at them, an AFP correspondent said.
The activists tried to hold a "day of kisses" action, with gay and lesbian couples kissing near the Duma to protest a proposed federal law banning "gay propaganda", already in effect in some Russian regions.
"The illegitimate regime wants to make the gay community invisible. That won't work. We'll kiss whenever we want, where we want, and with whoever we want," the organisers of the action said on Facebook.
Aggressive anti-gay protesters dealt severe blows to some activists, drawing blood, and even throwing punches at reporters. Although the clash took place near the parliament entrance, police took a long time to arrive at the scene.
At least five attackers were eventually detained and brought to a police station, Yelena Kostyuchenko, one of the organisers of the "day of kisses", wrote on Twitter. No gay activists have been detained, she said.
The proposed law introduces administrative fines of up to 500,000 rubles (12,500 euros, $16,600) for "gay propaganda" to children, which, according to the bill's authors, is being done through "media and street protests" and has "become widespread in modern Russia".
The bill however does not specify what "gay propaganda" is.
The parliament was scheduled to discuss the bill Tuesday but postponed the discussion to later in the week, RIA Novosti reported.
Similar legislation already in effect in Saint Petersburg and the Novosibirsk region in Siberia has provoked angry reactions from the US State Department, which said last year that it would "severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly".
Russia legalised homosexuality in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union but did not cease to class it as a mental disorder until 1999, and homophobic attitudes are still widespread.
Police have roughly broken up attempts to hold gay pride events in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The authorities regularly refuse to sanction such protests, citing the public's negative attitude.
© 2013 AFP
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