About five thousand gay pride marchers took to the streets of Ukraine’s capital Kiev, which lasted about 20 minutes despite opponents’ attempts to block them.
Some previous gay pride rallies in Ukraine have ended in violence. In 2015, a gay pride march was called off when right-wing activists pelted participants with smoke grenades
Last week, leading human rights organizations rebuked the authorities for police inaction in response to rising violence against ethnic minorities, women’s rights activists and LGBT people.
Early in the Saturday morning, more than 150 far-right protesters had sought to block off the route of the march through central Kiev. Small clashes broke out when police in riot gear moved to clear the street. “Several men who resisted and used gas canisters against law enforcement officers were detained,” the police said in a statement.
Far-right group C14 said police had surrounded its protesters, attacking them with batons and tear gas. “Look at how they protect ‘sexual minorities’ and violate the rights of regular Kiev citizens,” it said in a post on Facebook.
Kiev held its first major pride march in 2016 after the new government that came to power sanctioned such events.
After Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko voiced support for the ‘KyivPride2015’ equality march stating that he didn’t see “any reason to impede this march because it’s a constitutional right of every citizen of Ukraine.” Today dozens of members of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Right Sector Party viciously attacked the event leading to at least 25 arrests.
The BBC reports that five riot police were injured, one seriously.
Several dozen unknown assailants attacked a gay pride rally in Kiev on Saturday, throwing flares and wounding two policemen, a Reuters witness reported. Organizers for ‘KyivPride2015’ said the march along the Dnipro river would go ahead despite warnings from city mayor Vitaly Klitschko, who advised the event be canceled because of a threat of violence from far-right groups. Despite the presence of several hundred police in riot gear, the march of around 150 LGBT supporters carrying rainbow banners and placards came under attack and 25-30 “hooligans” were arrested, parliament member Serhiy Leshchenko said on Twitter. Leshchenko said police had prevented any direct clashes between participants in the march and the attackers.
For the very first time a gay pride march has happened in Kiev in the Ukraine but not before, a court ruled to cancel the march amidst security concerns. However, police stepped in at the last minute to offer protection to those marching so the march went on and Kiev police arrested 13 people for trying to disrupt it.
The assistance and support provided by authorities in Ukraine is in stark contrast to the hard-line anti-gay actions taken by their counterparts in Russia and is not lost on the pro-gay activists in Ukraine who are not underestimating the significance of today’s march:
“‘This event will go down in the history of Ukraine as one of the key developments in the fight for equal human rights,’ said Olena Semenova, one of the organizers, expressing gratitude to the police and the authorities for their action.”