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Vandals attack LGBT photo exhibit in Kiev

Photo emerges of gay pride organiser in Kiev being beaten up by thugs
Photo by Yevgenia Belorusets defaced in Kiev

An LGBT photo exhibition in Kiev was attacked, the day before the Ukrainian capital's first ever pride march was cancelled amid fears for activists' safety.

Vandals damaged 26 out of 40 photographs at the city's Visual Culture Research Center on Saturday (19 May), the day before the exhibition was due to close in Kiev.

The two men are reported to have waited until the gallery was empty before using a fork to deface the works by award-winning photographer Yevgenia Belorusets, knocking some of them to the floor.

The photographs depicted the everyday lives of LGBT families in Ukraine.

Co-organizers of the exhibition, Insight NGO, say they are 'shocked' by the attack.

'The Kiev region was just one region for this exhibition,' Olena Shevchenko, chair of the NGO, told Gay Star News.

'There are three more regions but now we don't have any photos.'

The incident was caught on security cameras and the video has been given to the police as evidence. An investigation has now been opened.

However, Shevchenko says she has little confidence in the police.

She added: 'The problem is politicians support this homophobic rhetoric and the police do nothing really to help. We would like to see more support and protection from the police.'

The attack occured the day before Kiev's first ever pride was cancelled amid fears of attacks from far right thugs.

Police advised pride organizers to abandon the march just 30 minutes before it was due to start, claiming 500 ultra-right football hooligans were en route to the rally point with the intention of preventing the event from going ahead.

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 proposed law change which would ban 'promoting homosexuality' is also currently being discussed in the Ukraine's parliament.

The bill would amend several laws including the law on protection of public morals, the law on print media, the law on television and radio broadcasting, the law on publishing and the criminal code.

The provisions, if adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament, would directly discriminate against LGBT individuals in the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

'It is shameful that the Kiev police didn’t protect a small group of peaceful pride participants,' Marije Cornelissen MEP, from the Greens/EFA, commented from Kiev.

'And while the government said it would adopt the anti-discrimination law as part of the visa liberalisation process, sexual orientation was taken out of the proposal.

'Ukraine must revoke any homophobic law and commit to making a peaceful march possible next year.'

MEPs have expressed concern over the spread of anti-gay discrimination in eastern European countries, with more and more pride events forced to cancel and laws criminalizing support for LGBT rights passed by governments.

As well as last week's attacks in the Ukraine, politicians also point to the violent attack of a bus carrying LGBT activists in Saint Petersburg, Russia, which left two people injured.

These attacks occur as Russia, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary are also adopting national and regional laws to forbid publicly expressing support for LGBT people’s human rights.

MEPs will debate a resolution on homophobia in Europe, with a particular focus on these laws, today.

The debate can be followed live from 4pm CET on the website of the European Parliament.

A resolution will be voted on Thursday (24 May).

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