This weekend marked yet another not particularly glorious episode in Russo-British relations, as one diplomat and two (well known) British gay rights activists were attacked in separate incidents.
First in line for a battering was Nigel Gould-Davies, first secretary at the British embassy in Moscow. He was attacked at 1am on Saturday morning, as he walked across the Theatre Square in Chita, the last stop in his Siberian lecture tour. According to news reports, he was treated in hospital for bruising to his face, but wasn’t seriously hurt. The BBC add that the motive for the attack is unclear, but police are leaning towards the ‘random attack’ explanation:
Russian police believe students celebrating their graduation could have been responsible for the assault.
Next up were British gay rights activists, Mark Tatchell (famous for attempting to place Robert Mugabe under citizen’s arrest) and Richard Fairbrass (an eighties (?) singer, famous mostly for singing “I’m too sexy”. They were beaten while protesting against the decision to ban a Gay Pride march in Moscow and, to add insult to injury were arrested for their troubles.
We arrived at the city hall at 12 o’clock on Sunday. Our intention was to hand a letter to the Moscow mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, but the police allowed gangs of neo-Nazis to infiltrate our group. They started attacking people in an absolutely shocking way. The police stood and watched while people punched me, knocked me to the ground and then kicked me. Eventually the police arrested me and let my neo-Nazi assailants walk free. I was taken into a police van with others, including the German MP Volker Beck, and the Italian MEP Marco Cappato. When we sat in the bus the police taunted us. They said: “Are you members of the sexual minority?” We said yes. They said: “We are going to have some fun with you at the police station.”
I spent 45 minutes at the station trying unsuccessfully to register a complaint. When we left, neo-Nazis attacked us again and pelted us with eggs. A Russian orthodox priest ran across the road and attacked us too. There were hundreds of riot police who could have easily prevented the neo-Nazis from assaulting us.
As well as Tatchell and Fairbrass, 31 others were arrested, including an Italian MEP.
Video of both attacks can be found on the BBC website. Obviously, they’re short clips, but the attacks looked unprovoked to me.