Ukrainian nationalists violently storm and shut down a public LGBT+ rights discussion

Photo: Saeed Khan / AFP / Getty Images
Photo: Saeed Khan / AFP / Getty Images

Radical Ukraine nationalists violently interrupted a scheduled Kyiv discussion on LGBT+ rights.

Entitled 'The Offensive against LGBTI Rights as a Form of Censorship: The Russian Experience', the public event was set to take place at a privately-hired venue and feature speakers from a number of human rights organisations.

Representatives from Amnesty International Ukraine, Human Rights Watch and Kyiv Pride were all scheduled to discuss a recent proposal suggesting legislation to ban gay "propaganda" in Ukraine. Events supporting the LGBT+ community were also targeted and threatened with censorship.

As attendees began to flood in, a group of more than 20 far-right radicals stormed the event. They used aggressive, intimidating language and threatened organisers with violence if they didn't cancel the discussion and vacate the premises. Despite this clear verbal assault, police officers reportedly stood by and refused to intervene.

Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher for Human Rights Watch, who was present throughout the incident, said:

It was clear from the way the police responded that nationalists can get away with this kind of violent and disruptive behaviour in Ukraine.

The nationalists came with a clear goal of halting a discussion about LGBT+ rights, and they succeeded as the police stood by and did nothing.

Speakers were scheduled to use Russia, a country whose similar gay 'propaganda' ban has been widely condemned by activists and human rights organisations, as a case study for the violence which could ensue if this legislation were introduced.

Instead, the event became one of many recent calls-for-action interrupted by nationalists. Thirty similarly aggressive interventions have been reported over the last year; in the last few months alone, extremists have attacked Women's March events and torched the belongings of Roma families.

Activists and human rights defenders have highlighted police complicity in these all-too-regular attacks.

Earlier this year, in a statement reported by Kyiv Post, Cooper underlined the urgent need for action:

Better police training is necessary.

Ukrainian police do not have a sufficient understanding of their responsibilities in these situations, and often refuse to intervene unless violence breaks out.

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