The Ukraine city of Kharkiv’s LGBTQ population came out in full force to hold Pride despite consistent attacks from Russia.
The Ukraine city of Kharkiv, which was liberated from Russian occupation in September, held its Pride on Sunday Sept. 25 despite still being a target of Russian shelling.
But Raw Story reported that the LGBTQ community of Kharkiv pressed on and assembled in a downtown street, marching through 10 stations along three lines carrying rainbow flags and wearing colorful costumes in defiance of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin who had mobilized 300,000 more soldiers against Ukraine in retaliation to its resistance.
“Putin doesn’t care if all he has left to rule in Kharkiv is rubble but we wanted to show we stand beside our fellow citizens to the end, whatever it will be; our Metro Pride parade was to show all Ukrainians we are with them no matter where the war zone grows,” a Kharkiv volunteer medic and emergency responder, nicknamed “Olek,” told Raw Story. “We are fighting for their rights and our rights.”
Putin has long taken an open stance against LGBTQ rights as a Western evil. His war on Ukraine has been endorsed by many homophobic allies such as the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, and the government of Chechnya, a close ally.
Earlier this year, the UN received a written report that Russia was compiling hit lists of Ukrainian LGBTQ activists that would be targeted for kidnapping, killing, imprisonment or torture.
Russian soldiers use gay rape as weapon
Raw Story revealed that a Ukrainian LGBT medical lab technician had volunteered to help UN investigators document war crime evidence and as part of that evidence revealed that Russian soldiers often mocked men with homophobic slurs before raping them.
“The soldiers say, now you are homosexual because that is the worst condition of man the soldiers can imagine,” said the technician, who asked to only be identified as “Yakiv” out of fear of being targeted by the Kremlin.
It comes as poet Artem Kamardin, outspoken in his opposition to Russia’s war on Ukraine, was brutally beaten and raped by Moscow police. According to investigative new outlet Novaya Gazeta, the police made video of the rape and allegedly played it for Kamardin’s girlfriend and threatened to rape her if she protested.
While homophobia is now embedded in Russian culture and words featuring “gay” and “homo” are commonly used slurs, fostering a public attitude that can be weaponized, helping to justify war, Ukraine has been moving away from anti-LGBTQ hate speech and towards Western freedoms.
In 1991, Ukraine laws criminalizing homosexuality were repealed. In 2015, LGBT workplace discrimination was declared illegal. Whereas in 2013, the Russian state parliament passed a national law passed making it illegal for any Russian to speak positively about gay rights.