Moscow's mayor vowed Monday never to allow a gay rights parade, calling such events "satanic," but activists said they would defy a city ban to hold what would be the Russian capital's first gay rights parade.
Yury Luzhkov and city authorities had barred activists from staging a parade last year, citing the threat of violence. Activists ignored the ban, and were pummeled by right-wing protesters and detained by police.
Speaking at a Kremlin event attended by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Luzhkov again lambasted gay and lesbian groups:
"Last year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as satanic," he said to applause in comments broadcast on a city-controlled TV channel. "We did not let the parade take place then, and we are not going to allow it in the future."
He also charged that Western countries were facing a crisis of religious faith and were corrupting children.
"Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools. Such things are a deadly moral poison for children," RIA-Novosti quoted Luzhkov as saying.
Meanwhile, Russian gay activists said they were challenging the city's ban of their parade in an appeal to the European Court for Human Rights, and pledged to hold a similar march in late May, reports AP.
"Trying to silence us, the Russian authorities denied us one of the fundamental human rights. The European justice will have the last say in this case," activist and parade organizer Nikolai Alexeyev said in a statement posted on the Web site gayrussia.ru.
The issue of holding a gay parade last year split Moscow's gay community, many of whom say that Russian society is still too conservative and a parade would only provoke more violence from radical groups.
Gay rights activists estimate that 5-8 percent of Russia's 143 million people are gay and lesbian.