More than 8,000 people joined the Gay Pride procession through Ukraine’s capital on Sunday, the biggest ever in the country’s history.
Demonstrators dressed in colorful clothing waved rainbow flags and held up banners reading “Diversity is beautiful” and “Human rights = happy country.”
“We go out to show that there are a lot of us and we have a lot of support,” Ruslana Panukhnyk, director of the NGO KyivPride that organizes the parade, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
Police and National Guards lined the streets to keep the peace as several hundred far-right and Orthodox activists staged a counterprotest nearby. Authorities said earlier they had arrested nine people on suspicion of preparing “provocations” against the parade.
Read more: Ukrainans hold first gay rights march, activists arrested in Russia
An international affair
Sunday’s march was the first since the election of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has said he stands for all people’s equality and freedom.
Several Ukrainian politicians and foreign diplomats also took part in the event. One of them, British Ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough, wrote on Twitter: “Thank you to the police and other law enforcement agencies for protecting today’s Pride event.”
William B.Taylor, charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Ukraine, wrote: “We stand with all Ukrainians striving for equality and non-discrimination.”
Homophobia 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 gay people in Ukraine are still relatively common. Opponents of gay rights argue homosexuality goes against the country’s traditional culture.
Besides minor scuffles with anti-gay activists, the parade was relatively peaceful
This year’s march was relatively peaceful compared to previous years. Violent clashes broke out at the parade in 2015, while last year more than 50 nationalist activists were detained following scuffles.
nm/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa)