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Gay Pride Marches In Moscow Should Be Allowed, Says Opposition Candidate Alexei Navalny

24/08/2013 16:03 BST | Updated 24/08/2013 16:04 BST

One of President Vladimir Putin's most staunch and energetic critics has vowed to allow gay pride marches through Moscow if he wins his bid to be the capital's next Mayor.

Alexei Navalny, a blogger turned politician who is seeking the mayoralty on an anti-corruption platform, has declared his opposition to the "gay propaganda law", banning the so-called promotion of homosexuality to minors.

Critics of the law say that this law, in effect, bans gay pride marches or any protests against unfair treatment of gay people in Russia.

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Alexei Navalny, right, speaks to supporters in downtown Moscow

"The constitution says that everyone can [demonstrate], and the mayor of Moscow cannot forbid it," Navalny said when asked about gay rights rallies in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio.

"I will adhere to the constitution. The constitution says all people have the right to demonstrate peacefully and unarmed.

"If everyone is clothed and marches in an orderly way with their slogans, I do not care at all what their sexual orientation is, where they are going and what they are saying."

The controversial law has led to worldwide calls for a boycott of the 2014 Olympics in February in Sochi, Russia, and a boycott of Russian vodka.

Putin has signed a decree banning demonstrations and rallies for two and a half months in Sochi around the 2014 Winter Olympics, it was announced on Friday.

Navalny was one of the key figures behind angry demonstrations against Putin's re-election in December 2011.

He was recently found guilty of corruption and sentenced to five years in prison, in a trial which human rights groups said was politically motivated. Navalny was banned from calling any witnesses for his own defence.

He was freed just 24 hours later on a technicality, and after mass protests across Moscow against his incarceration.

Navalny has no real chance of beating acting mayor Sergei Sobyanin, according to polls, but he has a strong following online, and is known for his lively interaction on social media, tweeting, blogging and posting to Instagram.

He also holds some controversial nationalist views, having attended anti-immigration rallies in the past. In the same interview, he said that performing a regional folk dance on a square outside the Kremlin - something that has stirred ethnic tension in recent years - would be a "violation of public order"