In yet another stunning example of barbaric, Sovietesque, behavior, Russia crushed a gay pride parade that included a number of prominent foreigners, another clear indication that Russia wants a second cold war it cannot possibly even wage, much less win. Reuters reports:
A Gay Pride march in Moscow at which far-right activists kicked and punched the marchers was like a return to Soviet-era repression, British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell [pictured, center] said on Monday. Tatchell, who had a black eye after being punched during the march on Sunday, said police failed to intervene as marchers were attacked by nationalists shouting "death to homosexuals". Police have denied ignoring the attacks. "The behaviour of the Moscow police was some of the worst I've ever experienced," Tatchell told Reuters in an interview outside a Moscow police station where he filed a complaint about the assault on him. "The police stood back and allowed the fascist thugs to attack us. They made very few efforts to stop them."
"(It) was very reminiscent of the repression by the police in the Brezhnev era of old-style Soviet Communism," said Tatchell, referring to Leonid Brezhnev who led the Soviet Union throughout the 1970s.
"They (the police) seemed to be working hand in glove with the neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists to get them to bash us. But either way, the end result was the same. We got arrested, we got bashed, and most of the assailants walked free." A Moscow police official, who did not want to be identified, said officers had detained many of the assailants and pulled gay rights activists to safety when they were attacked. "As far as they were able, and depending on the situation as it developed, the police ensured the safety of citizens regardless of their political and other interests," the official said. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called gay marches "satanic", refused permission to hold the parade. Riot police detained dozens of gay rights protesters, including two members of the European parliament. France expressed its dissatisfaction at the violence. "We regret the arrest of national and European Parliament elected representatives, who have since been released, as well as of several homosexual Russian activists. We ask for the latter to be released," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Tatchell said the treatment of the Gay Pride march was a symptom of a wider crackdown on democratic freedoms in Russia. "I think we need to say very loud and clear to President (Vladimir) Putin that Russia is welcome in the European family of nations," the campaigner said. "But that includes responsibilities, including respect for gay and lesbian human rights and including defence of the right to protest and freedom of expression."
As if that were not enough provocation for one day, Russia also test-fired a MiRV ICBM that can discharge multiple warheads from a single rocket, seeking to overwhelm defensive capabilities, and made more noises about withdrawing from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty as well. It's hard to imagine how Russia could be conducting itself any more provocatively, walking directly in the footsteps of the USSR as it reignites cold war with a whole host of countries each of which bests Russia economically and without a single ally of its own.
And the Russians still weren't done. Even as they refused to extradite the man Britain has alleged killed a neo-Soviet dissident on British soil and took actions that could have killed hundreds of innocent British citizens, yet another physical attack was launched on a British diplomat. The Guardian reports:
A senior British diplomat has been beaten by two unidentified assailants while on an official trip in provincial Russia. Nigel Gould-Davies, first secretary at the British embassy in Moscow, was attacked at 1am on Saturday as he walked across the theatre square in the Siberian city of Chita, police said. Mr Gould-Davies needed hospital treatment for bruises to his face. His glasses were broken in the attack and he was unable to see his assailants, police said.The beating is the second assault on Britons in Russia in two days, and follows an attack on Sunday by anti-homosexual protesters on the British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Mr Tatchell was punched, knocked to the ground, and kicked while protesting about gay rights with a group of European parliamentarians. Yesterday embassy officials described the attack on Mr Gould-Davies as a random assault carried out by drunken teenagers celebrating the end of the school year.
But the assault follows sustained state-sponsored harassment by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi against Anthony Brenton, Britain's ambassador in Moscow. Activists have picketed the British embassy, disrupted meetings and jumped in front of the ambassador's car. The campaign started last summer after Mr Brenton attended a human rights conference. Mr Gould-Davies was at the end of a two-week lecture tour in Siberia. The diplomat had given lectures to university students on globalisation, and had also met with regional officials. Chita, 3,760 miles east of Moscow, is home to Russia's most famous inmate - Mikhail Khordorkovsky. Khordorkovsky was jailed for eight years for tax evasion and fraud in a case widely seen as politically motivated, and as punishment for his role in funding opposition parties ahead of 2003 Duma elections.
Embassy officials yesterday said there was no link between Mr Gould-Davies's trip and Khordorkovsky. An embassy spokesman said: "We can confirm that an assault took place against a British diplomat in Chita. We are in close contact with him. We look to the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are caught." In Moscow, three Russian gay activists appeared in court yesterday following Sunday's demonstrations, which saw the arrest of 25 campaigners, including the German Green MP Volker Beck and the Italian MEP Marco Cappato. The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, yesterday wrote to Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, urging him to lift the ban on gay parades in the city that prompted Sunday's protest. He also called for all charges against the gay rights demonstrators to be dropped. "I am writing to convey my deep concern at the reported physical violence against and arrest of Peter Tatchell," Mr Livingstone wrote, adding that gay parades were now "the practice in most cities around the world".
Yesterday Mr Tatchell said he was still recovering. He said the Moscow police had "stood and watched" while far-right skinheads kicked him to the ground and punched him. "Even today I'm woozy. My eyesight is pretty poor. It's difficult to see clearly," he told the Guardian. "It's almost on a par with the beating I received at the hands of Robert Mugabe's thugs in 2001. This time I wasn't knocked unconscious and left in the gutter. But I ended up with a much bloodier face and severe bruising and swelling." Mr Tatchell yesterday registered a complaint about his treatment with Moscow police. Officials, however, defended the actions of riot police. "The city authorities did the right thing by prohibiting the parade and thus preventing clashes between opponents who are numerous in this country and advocates of sexual minorities," said Mikhail Solomentsev, a spokesman for Moscow's mayor.These actions would be shocking from any other industrialized nation, but from Russia they are just the status quo ante. We've seen this type of ape-like barbarism so many times from the USSR that the only surprising thing is that it wasn't even worse.
Truly, the speed at which Russia is plunging down the self-destructive path of renewed Soviet-style dictatorship is amazing, one of the most stunning events of modern human history. And remember, you read about it here first!