Gay Protester in Russia Detained at Torch Relay

He unfurled a rainbow flag
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 18, 2014 12:35 PM CST
Gay Protester in Russia Detained at Torch Relay
Security personnel detain Pavel Lebedev during the Olympic torch relay in the city of Voronezh.   (Andrei Nasonov)

A gay Russian protester was detained today for unfurling a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay as it passed through his hometown of Voronezh. Photos uploaded by his friends show Pavel Lebedev pulling out the flag and then being detained by Olympic security personnel, who wrestle him to the snow as they wait for police to arrive. Voronezh is 560 miles north of Sochi, where the games will begin Feb. 7. Lebedev, reached by the Associated Press on the phone, said he was still in the police station and undergoing questioning.

"Hosting the games here contradicts the basic principles of the Olympics, which is to cultivate tolerance," Lebedev said, citing growing homophobia in Russia as the main reason for his protest. A ban on propaganda of "nontraditional sexual relations" that was signed by President Vladimir Putin into law in June has provoked widespread international outrage from critics who believe the legislation discriminates against gays. (Putin says gays shouldn't worry—as long as they stay away from kids.)

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