Russian LGBT leader apparently safe after mysterious detention
- Was Russian LGBT leader exiled to Minsk?
- Take action: Leading gay activist vanishes in Moscow, striking fear and concern
MOSCOW – The worldwide LGBT community is waiting for an explanation on what happened to Russian LGBT leader Nikolai Alekseev, who was arrested Wednesday at a Moscow airport and vanished.
The mysterious circumstances sparked an international outcry by human rights activists who have observed a crackdown in Russia against the growing LGBT movement in the motherland as well as in other former member states of the old Soviet Union.
Alekseev, 32, is the head of Moscow Gay Pride and is well-known for his clashes with the city’s powerful mayor, Yury Luzhkov, over freedom of assembly and gay rights. Alekseev has filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights over the mayor’s banning of Pride for the past five years and the brutal treatment of the LGBT community when they assemble in public.
Most outside observers believe that Alekseev’s arrest has everything to do with his campaign for equal rights. He was arrested at the airport as he was about to leave for Geneva, Switzerland, to meet with the European Court.
Friends received a few text messages from Alekseev while he was still in detention at the airport, then the cell phone was confiscated.
Later, text messages sent from Alekseev’s cell phone claimed that he was exiled to Minsk, and the “news” was published in leading Russian newspapers.
But LGBT leaders in Minsk said there was no sign that Alekseev was even in Minsk, casting doubt on the validity of the text messages. It was feared that Alekseev was now in the hands of the FSB, Russia’s version of the CIA, and could be tortured and abused.
The international community began a telephone and e-mail campaign to save Alekseev, urging activists to contact their state department and call the Russian Embassy. The campaign may have paid off.
Today, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty is reporting that Alekseev has been freed after a two-day detention in the small town of Kashira, about 90 miles south of Moscow.
The activist says he was kidnapped and possibly drugged in an attempt to get him to withdraw his complaint with the European Court. He also says that he does not believe that his captors were with the Russian secret services, directing the blame at the mayor.
Meanwhile, this message was posted recently on Alekseev’s Facebook account:
“My dear friends, I just entered Moscow. Thank you to all of you for support. All I want now is to brush my teeth and to shave. I will try to
describe all that happened tonight! I never thought so many people care for me, it brings tears to my eyes.”