Agence France-Presse reported that nine Kiev police officers suffered injuries when members of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector), a Ukrainian nationalist group, sought to disrupt the “March for Equality” event that took place along the Dnieper River. The news agency said one of the police officers suffered serious neck injuries during the clashes.
Ukrainian officials said 25 people were arrested.
The march was only the second LGBT Pride march to take place in the former Soviet republic since it gained independence in 1991.
President Petro Poroshenko deployed more than 2,000 police officers to the march after nationalists threatened to disrupt it. The pro-European leader did not participate, but he told reporters on Friday that he supported it.
“I will not be taking part,” said Poroshenko, according to Agence France-Presse. “But I see no grounds for someone to try and disturb it, since this is the constitutional right of every Ukrainian citizen.”
Ukrainian advocates with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Saturday said that up to 300 people participated in the march. They said two members of the Ukrainian Parliament, Swedish Ambassador to Ukraine Stefan Gullgren and a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Kiev are among those who took part.
Dmitry Pichakhchi and his boyfriend, Denis Panin, who are members of Fulcrum, a Ukrainian LGBT advocacy group, took part in the “March for Equality.”
Panin told the Blade from Kiev that the number of people who took part was “a lot considering the situation.” He said he feels there was “no reason to cancel it” after Poroshenko publicly supported it.
“Everyone knew it would be dangerous,” Panin told the Blade. “Not everyone who wanted to go registered.”
Helen Globa, co-founder of Tergo, a support group for parents and friends of LGBT Ukrainians, was among those who took part in the march with a contingent from Amnesty International. Her son, Bogdan Globa, who is the executive director of Fulcrum, described the violence as “very sad.”
“A lot of people want to kill gays,” he told the Blade on Saturday from D.C.
Ukraine’s LGBT rights record remains poor compared to other European countries, even though Poroshenko is seeking closer ties to Brussels.
A 2013 Amnesty International report indicates anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain widespread in Ukraine. LGBT rights advocates last July cancelled a march that had been scheduled to take place in Kiev because local police refused to protect them amid threats from what they described as “ultra-right groups” and soccer hooligans.
Olena Shevchenko, co-chair of the Kyiv 2014 Pride organizing committee, told the Blade on Saturday that she opposed the “March for Equality,” which she described as a “closed format” event, because nationalists would have found out about it.
“I would prefer an open Pride in the center of Kiev,” said Shevchenko. “We see how it looks now: LGBT fighting with patriots. This is not the best picture for Ukraine’s European integration.”
Bogdan Globa told the Blade last June during an interview at PFLAG’s Washington offices with his mother that the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, which has declared itself independent from Kiev, has banned so-called gay propaganda to minors. He said members of a pro-Russian paramilitary group had also recently attacked those who attended a gay party at a Donetsk nightclub.
Helen Globa said members of her group who live in eastern Ukraine remain afraid to travel because of the ongoing conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops.