Thousands march in Ukraine’s Pride parade amidst tight security

More than 8,000 people marched peacefully in Ukraine’s biggest ever Pride parade on Sunday (June 23), ignoring far-right protestors who sought to disrupt the celebrations.

The ‘March for Equality’ was successfully held in the capital, Kiev, flanked by a thick cordon of police. The high security presence was deemed necessary after 150 far-right protestors attempted to block the route of the parade last year.

Reuters reports that nine men were arrested on Saturday (June 22) on suspicion of planning to disrupt the event, but there was no sign of violence despite the presence of approximately 1,000 protesters who shouted “Shame!” as the procession began.

Crowds of people dressed in rainbow colours paraded happily through the streets of Kiev holding banners saying: “Diversity is beautiful”, “Human rights = happy country”, “No violence — yes rights!”

One of the parade’s organisers, Ruslana Panukhnyk, estimated that around 3,000 more people attended compared to last year. “We are satisfied with the cooperation with the police. There were some small incidents, but no injuries,” she said. “The most important [thing] for us is human rights.”

New president could bring greater tolerance

The march was joined by several Ukrainian politicians and diplomats, including new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a popular actor and comedian who was elected last month. His presence at Pride is an indication of his government’s more tolerant approach to LGBT+ issues.

The former Soviet country increased its support for LGBT+ people in 2015, when it passed legislation to ban discrimination in the workplace in order to qualify for a visa-free travel agreement with the European Union.

However, most people in the country are Orthodox Christians, and while homosexuality is not illegal, discrimination is common. Same-sex marriage and adoption are still not permitted.

“We are for God and Ukraine… For us it is important that people, who have a sexual sin, do not make propaganda out of it,” said Oksana Korchynska, one of the protestors and member of the opposition Radical Party told Reuters.

But Zelenskiy made his support clear in a Facebook post on the morning of the march which read: “Ukraine’s Constitution states that citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms.”

A Pride parade was planned on the same day in Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi, but organisers were forced to cancel due to extreme opposition from far right groups.

An influential Georgian millionaire said at a rally on June 16 that he would send out “patrols” to stop the event happening, and encouraged people to bring wooden clubs.