Kyiv Pride boss tells global LGBT+ community ‘we need you’ after Russia invades Ukraine

A man clears debris at a damaged residential building at Koshytsa Street, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where a military shell allegedly hit, on February 25, 2022.

The executive director of Kyiv Pride has urged the international LGBT+ community to help Ukraine after Russia declared war.

Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a “military operation” in Ukraine on Thursday morning (24 February), met with widespread shock and condemnation across the world.

Explosions could reportedly be heard across the country, while Ukraine’s foreign minister warned that a “full-scale invasion” had begun.

Speaking with GlitterBeam, a global LGBT+ radio station, director of Kyiv Pride Lenny Emson said the situation in Ukraine is one of “panic” and “anxiety”, urging listeners to provide “international political support”.

In an interview with Eugenio Ceriello from a safe location, Emson said: “This is not an easy situation to be in.

“Of course, there is some anxiety, there is some panic, we’re all people, but first of all, we’re angry and we’re ready to fight. We want this to end. We want peace.”

Emson explained that while “we would not say that we [the LGBT+ community in Ukraine] are totally fully accepted in society”, the country has made progress in terms of LGBT+ rights, which an invasion by Russia could strip back.
He said: “We started our first Pride in 2012, so this year will be the 10th anniversary of the Pride march in Kyiv. Right now, we are in the situation when our parliament now is looking at voting for the anti-LGBT+ hate crime legislation that would really free us of hate crimes… we are discussing now the possibility of introducing equal marriages for same-sex couples in Ukraine.
“We understand that LGBT+ Pride will be the first target for Russia… but we believe in the Ukrainian army that has been fighting already for 24 hours holding Russia back. We want to hope and we want to believe that the international community will stand up and help us in this fight.
“We don’t want to believe that Ukraine will be Russia. There is no space for human rights in that country. We don’t want Ukraine to be the same, and we are going to fight against it.”

Emson explained the importance of tackling Russian propaganda and “fake news” in keeping the people of Ukraine safe.

He told GlitterBeam: “Some people are panicking, and some people are anxious. We cannot avoid it… but it’s how we manage this panic, how we manage this anxiety. This is what is important in my task as director of the biggest Pride organisations in Ukraine.

“My task as an LGBTQI activist is to stay with my community and to help them to stay calm, to keep going and to keep fighting.

“Not listening to any propaganda sources, because today, we have fake news coming from Russia, fake news about Ukraine falling down, and Russia is winning in this war, which is really provoking panic.”

“Do not believe in the information you did not fact check.”

Emson added that while there has been international support for the LGBT+ community in Ukraine, the country is now “relying on your help”.

“From the international community, we have just tremendous support. We’re really grateful for this, we receive tonnes of emails, direct messages, and posts in social media supporting us specifically as LGBTQI community,” he told GlitterBeam.
“This is what we need right now to feel that you’re not alone in this.”
He added: “We need you to act. We need you to go to your government. We need you to address local authorities, any professionals that you have access to. Please call them to stand up right now, to take political action to support Ukraine, and to take action against this war.
“We are really relying on your help.”