TWO separate European LGBTI rallies received very different welcomes last weekend, but what they had in common was the figure of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst.

Beards in the style of Wurst featured heavily when Cypriots celebrating their first Pride while arrests marred a Russian rally.

Over 3000 people took to the streets of Cyprus’ capital, Nicosia, on Saturday calling for equal rights in a country where the Orthodox church still has heavy influence, reported Reuters.

Despite decriminalising homosexuality in 1998, the Mediterranean island nation is still behind many of its European peers when it comes to gay rights.

LGBTI couples lack next-of-kin rights while civil partnerships, let alone same-sex marriage, remain illegal.

“I’m here because I support the right of everyone to be who they are,” said Magda Zenon at the parade organised by local group ACCEPT-LGBT.

“I want to live in a society where everyone has equal access to resources and the law.”

A counter protest of around 200 people, including clerics, greeted Pride marchers.

The island’s Orthodox church denounced the march calling homosexuality an “illness” while one protester’s placard said acceptance of gay people would turn Cyprus from an “island of saints” into an “island of savages”.

Austria’s ambassador to Nicosia, Karl Muller, attended the march with painted-on facial hair in homage to Wurst, who won the song contest for the country.

“This is part of a person’s rights to express themselves freely and I think its high time to emphasis the rights for these groups,” Mueller said.

The drag alter ego of Austrian performer Thomas Neuwirth was also on display at Moscow protests the same day.

The unauthorised demonstration came after the city’s council halted plans for a parade, which would have seen bearded men and women march on Moscow’s streets in celebration of Wurst’s success, reported the Moscow Times.

Several people were arrested at Saturday’s march, at least one of whom clearly sported Wurst’s trademark beard.

While homosexuality is legal in Russia, a law banning its “promotion” was passed last year and city authorities have disallowed gay pride marches for the last nine years.

Meanwhile, LGBTI activists in South Korea have vowed to go ahead with the annual Korea Queer Festival on June 7, despite local officials withdrawing permission in the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster that claimed over 300 lives.

Organisers say religious groups are opportunistically using the disaster as a ruse to axe the parade.

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