- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A gay couple was arrested Monday outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow after placing a poster reading “Love Wins” at a memorial for the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Television network Rain TV recorded video of the two men, Felix Glyukman and Islam Abdullabeckov, being hauled away by authorities, and Mr. Glyukman shared a photo on social media showing the couple in the backseat of a police cruiser shortly after the incident began.

“The police arrested us straight away and put us in their car for so-called ‘unauthorized action,’” Mr. Abdullabeckov told Russian media, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We only wanted to express our condolences for the murder of these people and we had not at all planned any kind of political act,” he added.

More than 100 were shot, 49 fatally, by a gunman Sunday morning inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Mr. Glyukman and Mr. Abdullabeckov said they were attempting to leave a handwritten sign and flowers outside the embassy when they were detained on suspicion of violating a Russian law that prohibits individuals from organizing or holding public events without permission.


The men were detained by the police for about three hours before being released, Mr. Glyukman said in a video posted to his Facebook page. 

“The guys just wanted to show their solidarity with people of the United States. They brought candles, flowers and a piece of card with ‘Love Wins’ written on it with a simple ball pen,” their attorney, Sergey Panchenko, told BuzzFeed. “Thing is, policemen there tried not to let people use any LGBT symbolics and when the guys came to the embassy and put down their banner they were immediately arrested and brought to Presnenskiy police station.”

Russia’s Interior Ministry did not immediately comment when contacted Monday by reporters with Rain TV.

Although Russia officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, political demonstrations are subject to government approval, and pro-gay rallies are rarely prohibited.

About 20 members of St. Petersburg’s LGBT community were reportedly arrested last month for taking part in the city’s annual May Day parade without permission, and Russia’s prosecution general said last week that he was working on legislation that would allow the government’s internet regulator to block access to websites where demonstrations are discussed.

Mr. Panchenko, the couple’s lawyer, told BuzzFeed that they were expected to meet with authorities Tuesday to discuss the case.

“I think police itself is not really interested in taking it to court, by the way. We have video evidence with us to prove the guys didn’t hold any rally or demonstration,” he said.

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