International News

Kyiv stages first Pride rally since Russia launched full-scale invasion more than two years ago

Graham Robson June 18, 2024

Several hundred LGBTQ+ activists and allies, including Ukrainian soldiers, marched in central Kyiv on June 16 to demand the government grant them more rights as they took part in the first Pride march in the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its full-scale invasion more than two years ago.

Protected by riot police, demonstrators demanded the legalisation of civil unions and harsh penalties for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition to seeking legal reforms to legalise civil unions for same-sex couples, campaigners are seeking changes in the law to allow people in those partnerships to make medical decisions for wounded soldiers and bury victims of the war.

Viktor Pylypenko, a Ukrainian soldier who has served as a rifleman and paramedic in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, said his group brought two messages to the march, each one displayed on banners.

One called on the world to “stop procrastinating” and send Ukraine more weapons and air-defence systems, he said. The other demanded the Ukrainian president and parliament “stop procrastinating” on the implementation of European values and on the introduction of human rights for groups that face discrimination.

Others said LGBTQ+ soldiers serving in the military are fighting the same as others and only want equal treatment under the law in their relationships and other aspects of their lives.

Soldiers and activists place Ukrainian flags with an LGBTQ+ coat of arms in tribute to fallen LGBTQ+ soldiers at a makeshift memorial on Independence Square on June 16.

“We are ordinary people who are fighting on an equal footing with everyone else, but deprived of the rights that other people have,” Dmitriy Pavlov, an army soldier who used a cane to walk said.

Many of the soldiers displayed rainbow patches on their uniforms and showed off the medals they had received.

Participants carried rainbow flags or wrapped themselves in them. Undeterred by rainy weather and a heavy police presence, many participants wore colourful clothing and gawdy accessories as they marched. The event lasted about 20 minutes and ended without provocations when participants went to the nearest metro station and dispersed.

Organisers faced difficulties ahead of the event. City authorities turned down a petition to allow it to be held at a metro station.

Police set up cordons in central Kyiv to keep the marchers clear of a counter-demonstration in which protesters carried posters with anti-gay slogans as they joined a march to a memorial for fallen soldiers in the centre of the city.

The Pride march was condemned by one of the main branches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.