UK & World News
Russia Gay Rights Olympics Protest Broken Up
Russian police have arrested gay rights activists protesting outside the country's winter Olympics headquarters in Moscow.
The campaigners were attempting to stage a gay pride event in the capital as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegation began its final inspection of games facilities in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the games are due to be held next year.
Demonstrations have been banned in the area for the three months around the winter games, due to begin on February 7 where a vast, restricted "forbidden zone" has been declared by presidential decree so campaigners fear they will be unable to make their voices heard during the event.
As the IOC inspectors toured construction sites nearly 1,000 miles (1,600km) to the south, protesters took turns trying to hold up banners with the rainbow flag outside the Sochi games offices in the capital.
It was not so much a protest as a series of arrests, as activists were surrounded and dragged, one by one, into the back of a police bus, their crumpled posters shoved through the doors behind them.
One young woman attempted to speak to Sky News through a ventilation grille in the window, before it was unceremoniously slammed shut and the detention bus driven off.
Nikolai Alexeyeev, head of the campaign group Gay Russia, shouted as he was being detained: "They are illegally arresting me for a one-person picket, they are twisting my arms."
He later announced on Twitter that all the activists had been processed and released, but now faced heavy fines for attending an illegal protest. He said he had tried and failed to get permission to hold a gay pride march in Sochi.
High profile figures including British broadcaster Stephen Fry have called for a boycott of the Sochi games in protest at Russia's treatment of its gay citizens, many of whom feel they are facing increasingly aggressive, and socially acceptable, homophobia.
Russia's parliament recently passed legislation banning what they called homosexual propaganda among minors, which they claim is needed to protect children's morality.
Campaigners say it can be used to stop them being given any information or education about gay rights.
Respected Russian journalist and musician Oleg Dusaev lost his job at a state-run broadcaster earlier this month after telling his friends he was gay.
He had worked as a presenter, and then editor of one of the Kultura channel's main programmes for almost a decade, before coming out on Facebook on August 30 this year.
Six days later he was told his employment would be coming to an end.
A spokesperson denied Oleg had been fired, insisting that his contract had simply 'not been renewed', but he told Sky News he felt his colleagues treated him as a completely different person once they found out he was gay.
Mr Dusaev said: "I 'came out' on my Facebook page and suddenly it spread across and somehow got into the media and so on.
"When I came to work the next day, some of my colleagues wouldn't say hello to me; they started laughing at me or they would turn their heads away in disgust.
"This is the most important thing to understand; homophobia is really huge among a large number of ordinary people, this seems much scarier than homophobia among the elite."
He said he was no longer sure he had a future in Russia.
"Now I am thinking how to live. I have all these unanswered questions.
"Where will I work, how will I earn money for living. Can I go on living in this society? How to live with the fact that people now recognise me on the street?
"So far I only had people expressing support coming to me on the street, thank god. How to live with all these threats that I get via text messages and social websites. I don't know.
"I am a normal person, of course I am frightened. What can I say, it's scary."