Orthodox protesters attack gay-rights rally in Russia

Dozens of Orthodox protesters chanting hymns and prayers attacked a gay-rights rally on Saturday in Saint Petersburg, leading to arrests on both sides.

Saint Petersburg: Dozens of Orthodox protesters chanting hymns and prayers attacked a gay-rights rally on Saturday in Saint Petersburg, leading to arrests on both sides.

About 20 gay-rights activists had gathered in the centre of Russia`s second city for the rally, waving rainbow flags and signs with messages such as "Stop homophobia in Russia!"

But the rally was cut short when a group of about 50 Orthodox Christian counter-demonstrators, singing and reciting prayers, attacked the activists, said an AFP photographer.

Police broke up the fight and arrested activists from both sides, about 20 people in all.

Gay rights is a divisive issue in Russia, where homosexuality was considered a crime until 1993 and a mental illness until 1999.

In June, President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial new law against "gay propaganda" that has drawn international condemnation and calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in southwestern Russia.

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