As we reposted from GayRussia last night, the leader of Russia's LGBT movement Nikolai Alekseev, was arrested at Moscow's main airport last night whilst on his way to Geneva.
At 6.45am GMT this morning a message from his e-mail account was sent by another activist reporting that Alekseev had managed to send a text saying "I can't say much now but pressure was huge, I am not in Moscow, relatively free now".
At 12.30pm UK Gay News republished quotes from Alekseev from GayRussia.Ru, the main Russian LGBT news website, allegedly given at 6am and 8am (that website is now down, presumed to be under attack) saying that the reason he had been arrested was “They demanded of me to give up on the picket Luzhkov and withdraw a complaint by the gay pride of European court. They also threatened me that a lot of bad things about me will be given to the Swiss authorities should I leave,”
Alekseev said then that he couldn't say where he was but now Russian news site Lenta.ru quoting from Russian News Service quotes an unnamed activist that he is in Belarus capital Minsk. It also quotes the radio station Ekho Moskvy reporting that Alekseeva, "in his own words, was expelled from Russia".
This has now been repeated by Russian news service Interfax, quoting Alekseev via SMS: "At the moment I am in Minsk. I was squeezed out to here."
However the Australian film maker Logan Mucha, who is producing a documentary on sexuality in Eastern Europe and filmed an attempted Pride march in Minsk earlier this year, tweeted this afternoon that he had spoken to Belarus gay activists - and they had said Alekseev isn't there. But one hour later the activists contacted him back to confirm that - yes - he is in Minsk.
Activist Nikolai Baev earlier told GayRussia.ru, translated by UK Gay News:
“The authorities use tactics of kidnapping and psychological pressure on people who displeased them. Apparently, this is their ‘agony’ before the inevitable ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the illegal ban demonstrations of gay pride in Moscow."
“The government is clearly losing to the the gay activists in the legal fight, so they resort to violence,” he continued.
“I do not rule out homophobic insults, abuse and even torture against him."
“If they think they can frighten us they’re wrong – the effect will be counterproductive. Such lawlessness and violence against the person will only strengthen our resolve to defend their civil rights.”
Moscow News quoting activist Alexei Davydov said the arrest could be connected to documents which Alekseev was planning to take to Switzerland, one of his colleagues said.
“Nikolai is very worried that his baggage will be used to hold him for a longer period of time,” Davydov told Gazeta.ru. Alekseev had been carrying copies of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s “Putin Itogi” (Putin Results), a publication which is already online and widely distributed.
German MEP Volker Beck, who has attended and been attacked at attempted Moscow Pride marches, tweeted last night about the arrest and this morning the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged a protest with Russian authorities.
London LibDem MEP, Sarah Ludford, said: "“I urge the European Union to use its influence as Russia’s major trading partner to try and better the country’s LGBT rights record."
In San Francisco Marriage Equality USA, a Bay Area-based group which advocates the right of same-sex couples to marry, last night organized a vigil at the Russian Consulate.
There is a demonstration in Berlin tomorrow and U.S. activists are 'phone-mobbing' the Russian Embassy. Call (202) 298-5700 or fax (202) 298-5735.
What you can do
If you want to help this international effort, contact the U.S. Department of State and ask Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to take action to save Nikolai Alekseev.
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
TTY:1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay Service)