News Brief

Ukrainian Far Right Attacks LGBT Activists in Kiev

Activists calling for transgender rights in Ukraine were forced to abandon a demonstration in the capital, Kiev, after far-right counter-demonstrators assaulted several protesters and attacked a Canadian journalist covering the event, according to RFE/RL and other news agencies.

Campaigners say it is a sign of the growing influence of right-wing elements in Ukraine, who are also accused of being intolerant of any criticism of the country. When the journalist, Michael Colborne (a Coda contributor) reported being attacked, he was accused of spreading “Russian propaganda.”

It is the latest in a wave of such incidents, political analysts say, and comes five years since the start of the Maidan protests in Kiev that led to the overthrow of the pro-Russian government of President Viktor Yanukovych, and Russia’s covert invasion of eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

The organizers of the rally criticized Ukrainian police for failing to protect about 40 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists who had planned to gather in Shevchenko Park on Sunday, November 18 for a legally sanctioned march through the city coinciding with “International Transgender Remembrance Day.”

The LGBT activists, carrying rainbow flags and banners with slogans saying “Transphobia must be stopped,” were forced to move after an estimated 100 “religious radicals and far-right groups” arrived in the park for a counter-protest.

Among them, RFE/RL’s Kiev correspondent Christopher Miller reported, were members of the Ukrainian far-right groups “Tradition and Order”, “Right Sector” and the “Religious National Front.” Some then reportedly followed the activists to a nearby subway station.

Instead of intervening, Ukrainian police were accused of pushing the LGBT activists through the turnstiles of the subway station, while swearing at them and shouting slurs, before blocking the entrance. But two female activists still on the street were seen being physically assaulted by the counter-demonstrators and doused with pepper spray.