The opening night of the new London Symphony Orchestra concert season at the Barbican in London was disrupted last night by a protest against the principal conductor’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Shortly after the orchestra assembled on the stage, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell strode on to the stage, dressed in a tuxedo, which led some in the audience to initially assume he was a Barbican spokesperson making an official announcement.

Tatchell told the concert audience: ‘Valery Gergiev is a friend, ally and supporter of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose regime is arresting peaceful protesters and opposition leaders. Gergiev defends the new homophobic law that persecutes gay Russians. He sided with Putin against Pussy Riot. I ask you to oppose tyranny and show your support for the Russian people.’

He was manhandled off the stage by security staff and then voluntarily left the concert hall to some slow hand claps, but mostly to applause. After he exited the concert hall, Tatchell added: ‘Gergiev’s loyalty to Putin has been rewarded with personal honours and massive state grants for his pet projects. Gergiev is a great conductor but he colludes with a tyrant and shows little concern for freedom and equality.’

Valery Gergiev is principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the world famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.