The European Union’s foreign minister has expressed ‘deep concern’ about the violence at Kiev Pride in Ukraine and the event’s cancellation.
Catherine Ashton, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security, has pledged diplomats will raise the anti-gay and trans attacks with the Ukraine authorities.
The pride march in Kiev was cancelled on 20 May, just 30 minutes before it was due to start after police claimed 500 ultra-right football hooligans were en route to the rally point intending to stop it.
Two activists were beaten up and tear gassed by a dozen youths in after those already gathered for the parade were evacuated with a police escort.
A photo later emerged of Svyatoslav Sheremet, one of the pride organizers, being kicked and jumped on by thugs.
Amnesty International immediately condemned the local police, saying they had never wanted the pride march to go ahead and not done enough to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people involved.
Now Ashton has added her statement.
It says: ‘Catherine Ashton, is deeply concerned about the violent disruption of peaceful events organized on 19 to 21 May as part of Kiev Pride. She expresses her solidarity with the victims of these acts and urges the Ukrainian authorities to investigate them thoroughly and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
‘The High Representative calls on the Ukrainian authorities to protect and to enforce the rights of all Ukrainians, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression.
‘The EU Head of Delegation received the organizers of the Kiev Pride to express support and commitment of the High Representative to the protection of human rights of all Ukrainians without discrimination.
‘The European Union will use the forthcoming bilateral meetings to discuss the issue with the Ukrainian authorities.’
However politicians in the country have spoken against the local LGBT community and the pride event and even supported the right-wing counter protest.
Among them is MP Mickhail Chechetov, representative of the Party of Regions, which holds a third of the seats in parliament and is the party of Ukrainian President.
He said: ‘I stand against beating up the people with opinions I don’t share. Fighting and use of force are unacceptable. But public morals exist. We will go to Europe through front door, not through anus. This is my answer about how we can go to Europe without gay parades.’
And Andriy Illienko, from the far smaller, extreme right All-Ukrainian Union ‘Svoboda’ party was even more outspoken.
He said: ‘Svoboda people gathered, other patriots, the patriotic Kiev public – all together about 500 young people of athletic physique. They patrolled the center of the city and did not let any parades be held.
‘Svoboda of course is not relevant to the attack because we are legal political party. Unfortunately, we don’t know these unknown heroes that showed to the bunch of perverts that it is very dangerous to make homosexualism (sic) propaganda in Kiev.’
The Kiev situation comes at a time when Ukraine’s parliament is debating a law banning 'promotion' of LGBT issues which would criminalize media coverage and the work of gay rights groups.
GSN asked the Pride activists for their view on the situation in the country and their response to Ashton's statement.
Olena told Gay Star News: ‘In the immediate aftermath [of the aborted pride] I felt I felt disappointed, sad and angry... the police did not prevent the counter-demonstrators, they blocked our path to the starting point. This means that police do not understand policing.
‘For non-LGBT Ukrainians “Pride” means naked boys dancing in the street. We have tried to communicate the truth about “homosexuality” but now we have a law against “homosexual propaganda” in the Ukrainian parliament this week.
‘Ukraine has a long history of... well slavery and force. When we try to explain in a gentle way, nobody respects us.
‘But our politicians have to listen to Catherine Ashton because they want co-operation with the EU so for us her statement means a lot, that someone with power is on our side, speaking for us. We are so grateful for this.’
British lesbian campaigner Clare Dimyon MBE, from Pride Solidarity, is currently in Kiev helping local activists.
She told GSN: ‘While the events themselves are appalling, (Svyatoslav is someone I know from two years ago) Kyiv Pride is a total tactical success. In the week the Verhovna Rada discusses a "homosexual propaganda law" LGBT people whom it most affects cannot assemble freely and participate in the debate. More than that they were prevented by the police from doing so.
‘Even with my knowledge of central and eastern Europe, I am shocked by what I am finding here. Tomorrow I am off to Kharkiv, where I suspect conditions for LGBT will be even worse.’