Thousands marched in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Sunday for LGTBQ rights, an annual march that was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Waving rainbow flags, roughly 7,000 people — down from the record of 8,000 in 2019 — marched through the capital city. Police flanked the marchers.
Kateryna Lytvynenko, a Pride participant, told The Associated Press: "(We) are here at the Pride (march) to support the LGBTQ community in Ukraine. We are here to promote human rights because LGBTQ rights are human rights and, unfortunately, the community faces a lot of violence and discrimination in Ukraine still."
Artyom, who said he was an IT expert, told Agence France-Presse: "Hate exists in these territories, in post-Soviet countries, only because of a lack of respect. It also exists in Europe and in the West, but at a much lower level. They respect human rights there, while in our country the respect for human rights is only just starting to develop."
The march was peaceful, and no clashes were reported.
Several hundred anti-gay rights activists held their own rally in a park in Kyiv, the AP reported.
Kristian Udarov, who said he was a right-wing activist and pro-Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, told AFP: “We are here today to protect family and Christian values, to protest against LGBT propaganda, because we are against it. LGBT is just people playing politics, and frankly it's an illness."
A number of Western diplomats, including staff from the U.S. and U.K. embassies, took part in the Pride march, tweeting their support for the movement, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
“Embassy Kyiv community members participated in #KyivPride2021 to show support for the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including LGBTQI+ persons,” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said in a tweet. “We salute law enforcement for ensuring participants' safety.”
“So fantastic to be out on the streets alongside my cool @UKinUkraine colleagues and friends supporting LGBTQ groups in Ukraine,” Melinda Simmons, Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, wrote in a tweet.
Homophobia is widespread in Ukraine. A survey published in August by sociological group “Rating” said 47% of respondents had a negative view of the gay community.
While government support for LGBTQ rights has increased in recent years, the country does not allow same-sex couples to be married or adopt children, and workplace discrimination laws do not encompass sexual orientation.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters.