Olena Shevchenko, co-chair of the Kyiv 2014 Pride organizing committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko told march organizers that it was not an “appropriate time” to hold the event. Shevchenko said Klitschko told the advocates that his city did not “have enough forces to protect” them, even though she said officials deployed around 3,000 police officers to a protest outside the Ukrainian Parliament two days earlier.
Shevchenko told the Blade that threats from “ultra-right groups” and soccer hooligans ultimately prompted organizers to cancel the march.
Nearly three dozen people nevertheless took part in a flash mob at a Kiev park on July 5 where they held balloons and banners that read “human rights for all.”
“It was really important to show our society that we are here and we aren’t afraid to be open,” said Shevchenko.
Bogdan Globa, executive director of Tergo, a Ukrainian LGBT advocacy group, told the Blade the decision to cancel the march did not come as a surprise because radical groups and fascist organizations are “fairly active” in Kiev and local authorities are “engaged in other issues and are too weak.”
He said a group of mothers with his organization who had planned to participate in the event were nevertheless disappointed.
“We believe that the organizers of the march haven’t chosen time for the march very thoroughly,” Globa told the Blade. “Our society is very aggressive and radicalized at the moment.”
Ukraine’s LGBT rights record remains poor compared to other European countries.
Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain commonplace in the former Soviet republic.
Ukrainian parliamentarians since 2012 have considered two gay propaganda bills similar to the law that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed in June 2013. They approved an anti-discrimination bill in March that did not include sexual orientation with the apparent approval of European officials in Brussels.
More than 100 LGBT rights advocates in May 2013 took part in Kiev’s first Pride march that took place without violence, even though protesters attempted to disrupt the event.
Shevchenko, who was in the U.S. in April, and other LGBT advocates with whom the Blade has recently spoken say the ongoing violence between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops in the eastern part of the country has had an adverse affect on their advocacy efforts.