Ukraine holds its biggest ever Gay Pride parade

Large crowds, including Western diplomats, have marched through central Kyiv for the city’s annual Gay Pride parade. Authorities deployed a contingent of heavy police and members of the National Guard to protect the participants.

More than 8,000 people joined the Gay Pride procession through Ukraine’s capital on Sunday, the largest in the country’s history.

Protesters dressed in colorful clothes waved rainbow flags and held banners that said “Diversity is beautiful” and “Human rights – happy country.”

“We go out to show that there are many of us and we have a lot of support,” Agence France-Presse, Ruslana Panukhnyk, director of the NGO KyivPride that organizes the parade, told Agence France-Presse news agency.

A group of uniformed soldiers also marched in the event. Viktor Pylypenko, who led the troops and veterans column, said there were gay soldiers on the east front who wanted to attend the event.

“There are many homophobes and because of these homophobes and their homophobic commanders, these people can’t get out,” he said.

Police and the National Guard lined up in the streets to keep the peace, as several hundred Orthodox and far-right activists staged a nearby backcheck. Authorities said they had previously arrested nine people on suspicion of preparing “provocations” against the parade.

“We are in favor of God and Ukraine,” the opposition member of the Oksana Korchynska Radical Party told Reuters news agency on Sunday. “It’s important to us that people who have a sexual sin don’t make propaganda from that.”

Supporters of LGBT rights march in Kyiv's Gay Pride parade

An international issue

Sunday’s march was the first since the election of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. On Sunday morning, Zelenskiy’s office urged police to preserve the safety of protesters and noted that the country’s constitution guarantees equality and freedom.

Several Ukrainian politicians and foreign diplomats also took part in the event. One of them, the British ambassador to Ukraine, Judith Gough, wrote on Twitter: “Thank you to the police and other police agencies for protecting today’s Pride event.”

William B.Taylor, business manager at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, wrote, “We are with all Ukrainians fighting for equality and non-discrimination.”

Homophobia is still widespread.

Support for LGBT rights has grown in the former Soviet state since a Western-backed government came to power in 2014. But homophobic attitudes and attacks on homosexuals in Ukraine remain relatively common. Opponents of gay rights argue that homosexuality goes against the country’s traditional culture.

Police detain a protester

This year’s march was relatively peaceful compared to previous years. In 2015 there were violent clashes at the parade, while last year more than 50 nationalist activists were arrested for fighting.

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