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Has Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev actually been released? And is he really in Minsk?
These are questions being asked by Belarusian gay activists in Minsk this afternoon – and by UK Gay News.
It is true that the most recent messages that Mr. Alekseev has sent to his partner today have said that he is free and is fine.
But these messages were sent by SMS. Was it Mr. Alekseev who sent them? And if it was him, was he under any sort of pressure?
The first hint that all might not be well came late this morning when a reliable gay activist in Minsk alerted this Website that Interfax Belarus had posted an article today saying that Mr. Alekseev had applied for political asylum in Belarus – and that “[i]n connection with the pressure on me, I decided to withdraw the complaints to the European Court about the bans on gay prides in 2006, 2007 and 2008 by the Moscow authorities.”
[This Interfax Belarus report can be read HERE]
This, the gay community in Minsk suggest, is so out of character.
Additionally, Mr. Alekseev has not been seen in Minsk by activists, nor has he made any contact with anyone.
It is not as though Mr. Alekseev does not know anyone in Minsk. He does – he helped to organise Slavic Pride in the Belarusian capital this year, and sevarl were in Moscow for Gay Pride.
“The situation that has evolved around the disappearance of Nikolai Alekseev is very strange,” a leading gay activist told UK Gay News this afternoon.
“Reliable information about where he is, if he is free, and whether or not Nikolai himself sends SMS messages that are mentioned in the media is not known.
“At the same time, the media has played in every possible way on this incident and not tried to understand what is written and what happening.
“At the moment, I personally have great concern about the safety of Nikolai because in two days no one has had a single phone call, neither his friends nor the media.
“SMS messages can be sent by anyone, not just Nikolai,” he pointed out.
Until Mr. Alekseev actually contacts someone by “voice” telephone and says where he is – and that he is a free many, concerns will remain. But at the present time, there are serious doubts.
At the end of the day, the Belarus authorities are a law unto to themselves. Human rights are mainly ignored. And to a lesser extent, it is the same in Russia.
And the authorities in both countries indeed have a lot to answer for. When Mr. Alekseev is reported as saying that he was pressured into withdrawing his complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, then the justices in Strasbourg may well have something to say on the matter and a question or two.
The gay activists in Minsk are right to be concerned.
As veteran openly gay New York–based journalist Doug Ireland says: “Knowing Nikolai, it is inconceivable to me that he would request political asylum in Belarus.”SEE ALSO
For Coverage in German, see Queer’s Website
English Translation of Russian Gay Activist Nikolai Alekseev’s Account of His Kidnapping: As It Was ... My Abduction. By Nikolai Alekseev. On September 15th nothing could have prepared me for what happened over the next three days. (UK Gay News, September 19, 2010)
Russian Gay Activist: “I Never Was in Minsk – I Never Sent Any SMS Messages. “Abducted” Alekseev surfaces in Russia, not Belarus. “I never was in Minsk … My phone was taken from me two days ago …” These are the actual – and remarkable – words of Nikolai Alekseev, the gay Russian activist and chief organiser of Moscow Pride, who has surfaced somewhere in Russia. (UK Gay News, September 17, 2010)
Questions Have to be Answered by Authorities in Russia and Belarus as Doubts Emerge About Well-Being of Russian Gay Activist. Commentary. Has Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev actually been released? And is he really in Minsk? These are questions being asked by Belarusian gay activists in Minsk this afternoon. (UK Gay News, September 17, 2010)
Direland - USA:
New Concerns for Safety of Nikolai Alekseev. Commentary by Doug Ireland. A dispatch published a few hours ago by Interfax Belarus, the Belarussian branch of the Russian-based news agency, raises real questions about whether leading Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev -- who was arrested Wednesday night, disappeared from view for two days while Russian authorities denied having him in custody, than resurfaced in Minsk in Belarus, where he'd been deported -- is in fact truly free of his movements and speech.
BBC News Russian Service - UK:
Устроитель гей-парадов в Москве просит убежища в Минске? Коллеги и друзья организатора гей-парадов в Москве Николая Алексеева почти сутки не могут выйти с ним на связь. Тем временем с номера его мобильного телефона в агентство Интерфакс пришли sms о том, что он решил просить политического убежища в Белоруссии. This article, Organizer of Gay Parades in Moscow Seeks Asylum in Minsk?, is is Russian only. Google online translation is HERE.
MEP on Russia Gay Rights: Alekseev’s Arrest Is of “Deep Concern”. An MEP has expressed “deep concern” following the arrest yesterday evening of Nikolai Alekseev, the high-profile Russian gay activist who was detained at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow as he was about to board a Swiss Air Lines flight to Geneva. Sarah Ludford, the LibDem MEP who sits with the ALDE group in the European Parliament, hit out at the Russian authorities today. (UK Gay News, September 16, 2010)
Alekseev: “They Want Me to Withdraw the Complaints to European Court over Moscow Gay Pride”. Russian authorities have detained the organiser of Moscow Gay Pride, Nikolai Alekseev, and are requiring him to abandon a picket, demanding the resignation of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The authorities are also demanding that he withdraws lawsuits lodged with the European Court of Human Rights over the banning of Moscow Gay Prides over the past five years. (UK Gay News, September 16, 2010)
Russian Gay Activist Arrested at Moscow Airport As He Was About to Board Swiss Air Lines Flight to Geneva. Russia’s best known gay rights activist was arrested this evening at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. And there are concerns as, so far, officials are not giving out any information about his whereabouts. (UK Gay News, September 15, 2010)