Moscow: Gay rights activists staged protests in the central Russian city of Kostroma on Monday against plans to impose fines on the promotion of homosexuality. Last month, a similar ban was shelved in St. Petersburg, Russia's second city, after MPs questioned its 'legal definitions'.

The bill, pushed by the ruling United Russia party and widely expected to be passed by Kostroma's Duma in the first of three required readings on Tuesday, would outlaw any gay pride events.

It would also allow authorities to impose fines of up to 50,000 rubles (USD1, 600) for public activities promoting homosexuality (sodomy and lesbianism), bisexualism and transgender identity as well as pedophilia among minors. The promotion of 'religious sects' would also be punishable by fines.

Eight campaigners staged protests in Kostroma's city center on Monday holding posters demanding equal rights and condemning the treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia.

The authorities claim the bill was aimed at preventing sex crimes against minors, but Yelena Kostyuchenko, a journalist with the liberal Novaya Gazeta and gay rights campaigner, said homosexuality was a 'biological quality' and could not be promoted.

She also warned against the danger of the bill's vague criteria, saying it was not clear quite what was to be defined as gay propaganda.

Igor Kochetkov, head of the St. Petersburg LGBT group Coming Out, said the bill was being ostracized to divert public attention from 'real political and social problems' as the Kremlin tries to appease anti-government protesters.

Russia has seen its largest protests in some two decades over alleged vote fraud in favor of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party at recent parliamentary polls.