Russia Detains British LGBT Campaigner, Hours Before World Cup

Russian police briefly detained a British LGBT rights campaigner in central Moscow for what they said was an illegal protest on the first day of the World Cup soccer tournament.

Peter Tatchell was detained near Red Square on June 14 for holding a one-man protest to draw attention to what he said were human rights abuses committed against gay men in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya.

The 66-year-old veteran campaigner was led away by police shortly after unfolding a poster that said President Vladimir “Putin fails to act against Chechnya torture of gay people."

After a discussion about the legality of the protest, he was escorted to a police car by several police officers and taken to Tverskaya police station before being released, according to the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

"We have spoken to the local authorities and are pleased to confirm that he is well and has now been released," the British Embassy to Russia said on Twitter.

Police said they will charge Tatchell with breaking the law on public meetings, Interfax news agency reported.

The British Embassy to Russia said it was “urgently investigating the arrest of a British National in Moscow,” without providing details.

Tatchell has been to Russia several times to protest for LGBT rights and has twice been detained in the country. During a 2007 gay-pride parade in Moscow, he was beaten by an antigay protester.

His latest detention comes hours before the kickoff of the World Cup.

Russia has faced international pressure over the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya, which Kremlin-backed regional strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has ruled with an iron hand for over a decade.

The United States and European governments have urged Russia to investigate an alleged campaign of abuses -- including torture and murder -- against gay men in Chechnya that was first reported in April 2017 by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

With reporting by Reuters, Interfax, and AFP