Gay rights activists arrested in Russia
By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:18 AM EDT, Sat April
Moscow (CNN) -- Police in the
Russian city of St. Petersburg
have arrested two gay rights activists for breaching a new law that bans the
"promotion of homosexuality" to minors, state news agency RIA Novosti reported Saturday.
The two men were
detained on Thursday after picketing against the law, which came into effect on
March, the news agency said.
Petersburg is one of four regions in Russia to impose fines for the
dissemination of "gay propaganda" to minors, according to the
state-owned Itar-Tass news agency. The others are the
Gay rights activists in St. Petersburg have
challenged the law in court, arguing that any mention of homosexuality can now
be considered an offense under the bill, RIA Novosti
The U.S. State
Department raised concerns over the legislation before it was passed by St. Petersburg city
Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the law "would severely restrict freedoms
of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)
individuals, and indeed all Russians. As Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton has said, gay
rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
"We have called on
Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment
which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens."
The United States
is liaising with the European Union, as well as Russian officials, on the
issue, Nuland said in February.
The European Parliament
has also voiced concern over regional legislation in Russia that restricts gay rights.