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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Russian LGBT leader exiled to Minsk?

Photo of Nikolai AlekseevImage via Wikipedia 
By Paul Canning

UPDATE 18 SEPT:

Nikolai was abducted, account published. UK Gay News has now published a proper translation to English.

He was handed over by Border Agents at the airport to "hulking men in civilian clothes, with faces not disfigured by intellect" despite having passed the border and with apparent complicity of Swiss Air Lines. Knows he was taken to Kashira, 115k south of Moscow thanks to using GPS on retained iPad: "thanks Apple!" Subjected to "Moscow methods of spec-ops." Tried to make him sign document canceling case on Moscow Pride before European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Given water he thinks was drugged, causing "emotional unresponsiveness". Taken another 85k south to Tula Interior Ministry (OVD). Here was where his phone was used to send fake SMS messages saying he was in Minsk, seeking asylum and withdrawing ECHR case. Dumped on Tula's outskirts, catches bus to Moscow where he arrives Friday morning.

Will legally pursue Swiss Air Lines and Domodedovo (Moscow Airport) and "demand a complete investigation into the basis of crimes against me in the form of illegal deprivation of freedom and kidnapping". Thanks all those who looked out for him and: "Thank you as well to my enemies, who have livened up for the umpteenth time and accused me of “cheap PR”. Thanks to them, this information was further debated and disseminated." Immediately will be trying to get GayRussia.ru website back up (it was taken down by hackers during his abduction) and organise protest on Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's birthday.

He told RFE "I don't think federal structures would have resorted to such means if they had wanted something from me. I think this is largely linked to Moscow authorities and the actions we have taken against them at the European Court."

On Facebook he says he has spoken with Associated Press. Hopefully this will ensure MainStream Media coverage! Which has been absent.

AP story. Quoted blaming "state security agents"

UK Gay News has confirmation that Nikolai has returned to Moscow and will explain what happened.

A post has also appeared on his personal blog saying:
My dear friends, I moved to Moscow. Thank you all for your support in this terrible time. I will try to make a statement in the evening. All I want now is to clean teeth and shave.
Спасибо всем за поддержку в это ужасное время. Постараюсь до вечера сделать заявление Все что я хочу сейчас это почистить зубы и побриться.
Gay German Green MP Volker Beck says he has spoken with Nikolai.

Yesterday yagg.com quoted Sophie Lichten, Vice-Chair of IDAHO Committee saying he was returning to Moscow and she had spoken with him (translation from French by F Young): "I am delighted that we finally have official confirmation that my counterpart [Nikolai Alekseev is also a Vice-Chair of the IDAHO Committee] is still around."

queer.de quotes Nikolai talking with radio station "Echo Moscow". He spent two days in a police station in Moscow, then yesterday they brought him to Tula (200 km from Moscow). He had been asked to withdraw his complaints before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). He is threatening to sue Swiss Airlines.

On his Facebook page, Nikolai says he was beyond border control at Moscow's main airport: "According to my passport I left the country. I have a boarding pass with the stamp that I passed aviation security. I was not in Russia anymore, I am under international law."

UPDATE 17 SEPT: 

UK Gay News has spoken with friend of Nikolai. He is 500km from Moscow and disavows SMS messages sent in his name.
“We will have to wait until Saturday evening to learn of the entire story,” the friend added.
It gets worse, from queer.de:
Also co-organizer of the Moscow CSD Alexei Davydov no longer believes what he is getting read. In his blog he writes that he has (three times) SMS to a personal question asked by Alekseev, he can only answer - and then more received no response. From this he concludes: "Everything that was written under his name comes not from him." We have great concern for the health and the lives of Alekseev.
They also quote a Belarus activist, currently in Germany, who says that text messages from Alekseev have been faked before.


No-one has actually spoken with him, just been sent text messages.

UK Gay News is reporting that Belerussian activists have not seen or spoken with Nikolai.

queer.de later quote a Belorussian activist "text messages that were sent from his mobile phone, have been written by someone else."


Moscow Times is reporting that one of the main reasons for the harassment has worked - Alekseev has agreed to drop the case with the European Court of Human Rights on Moscow Mayor Luzhkov years long ban on Moscow Gay Pride.

lenta.ru says quoting Interfax he is seeking asylum in Belarus.

His partner has spoken to him this morning. It is believed that he will be taking a flight to Western Europe later today.  "I think the story is on the way to being closed," Mr Alekseev's partner told UK Gay News.

Tetu reports that the French foreign ministry has called the Russians and issued a formal statement. The Germans did yesterday.'

German Foreign Ministry has announced they will send representative to Moscow on Monday to ask what's going on.

Box Turtle Bulletin reporting on Yagg post quoting Idaho suggest Nikolai may be returning to Moscow.

UPDATE 16 SEPT 6.30PM, Via Facebook from his Moscow colleagues:
We received a message from him that he is safe and in Minsk, we will know more from him when he can better communicate, probably tomorrow. We wanted to give you this update already and also to thank you for your incredible and huge mobilization and solidarity. It paid off. You can relay this message.
Via email they added:
The picket against the Moscow Mayor planned in Moscow for Sept 21 is maintained irrespectively of the decision of the authorities to allow it or not.
As we reposted from GayRussia last night, the leader of Russia's LGBT movement Nicolai 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 email 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 [of homophobic Moscow mayor] 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.

“Nikolai is very worried that his baggage will be used to hold him for a longer period of time,” Davydov told Gazeta.ru, Moscow News said. 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 US activists are 'phone-mobbing' the Russian Embassy.

German MP Volker Beck has posted pictures from the demo in Berlin.


Footnote: Moscow Times quotes a Moscow airport spokeswoman speaking to RIA-Novosti, Yelena Galanova, saying Alexeyev 'had refused to obey security measures'.
“He refused to remove his shoes during a check. The airport security service informed his air carrier about it, and the company removed him from the flight,” Galanova said.
She did not elaborate and could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
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