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Volker Beck, a Green member of Germany's Bundestag, was attacked while giving a TV interview at the protest scene in Moscow. ((Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press))

Russian police, nationalist protesters and Orthodox Christians forcefully prevented gay and lesbian rights activists from rallying in Moscow on Saturday.

The activists had planned to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a symbol of the Second World War struggle against fascism and one of Russia's most revered places.

But some 1,000 riot police moved in to close the gates to the park near Red Square as the marchers arrived.

Homosexualitywas decriminalizedin Russia in 1993.

The activists said they planned the event as a symbolic protest to equate the struggle for gay rights with the struggle against fascism in the Second World War.

City officials had refused to grant permission for the rally, and on Friday a Moscow court upheld a ban imposed by the mayor.

Police arrested 120 people, both gay activists and anti-gay protesters. The rally's organizer, Nikolay Alexeyev, was among those arrested.

'We have the same rights'

"We are conducting a peaceful action. We want to show that we have the same rights as other citizens," Alexeyev told a news conference a few hours before events turned violent.

The crowd opposed to gay rights and the rallyincluded women who held up religious icons. They were joined by men in Cossack traditional dress — white sheepskin hats and black-and-red tunics.

Police quickly moved in as the first half-dozen rally participants arrived carrying flowers. They were joined by about 100 religious and nationalist extremists who kicked and punched some of the activists.

As Volker Beck, a Green member of Germany's national parliament, was giving a TV interview, about 20 nationalist youths surrounded him and punched him inhis face, bloodying his nose.