LGBTQ+ groups voice concerns over safety of queer people in Ukraine

As Russia continues the invasion in Ukraine, activists call for the rest of the world not to leave them alone.

A photo of the Kyiv Pride parade. Association Kaos GL in Ukraine has raised concerns over the LGBTQ+ population.
Image: Via Twitter - @KyivPride

LGBTQ+ group Kaos GL issued a statement to voice their concerns about the dangers that queer citizens in Ukraine are facing amid Russia’s invasion. The title of the statement is ‘No to war’ and it is a call to everyone to protect peace and stop the war.

Last night, explosions were heard across Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital and Russian troops have entered the city today, Friday 25. Key cities across Ukraine have since been attacked, leading to hundreds of people being killed and many more injured, while 100,000 have been displaced and are fleeing to nearby European states. President Zelenskyy has called on all Ukrainian citizens with military experience to offer help to the defence forces. In a televised address, Russian President Putin called for a military coupe and encouraged the Ukrainian army to overthrow its own leadership in Kyiv.

Meanwhile, the EU, the US and the UK have responded by announcing sanctions targeting Russian banks and elites with close ties to Putin and Russian assets have been frozen in various countries. The G7 also announced a series of “severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions”. US President Biden commented on the events by saying “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences”, but he also reiterated the commitment not to send US troops to defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

Amid this situation, Kaos GL expressed particular concerns for the lives of the queer citizens of Ukraine. “We are worried about the security of life of our comrades and LGBTI+ rights defenders in Ukraine. We witnessed the oppression against LGBTI+s closely in the regions in the grip of Russia, who is the builder and the operator of the hostility policies towards LGBTI+s” said Kaos GL.

“While the torture against LGBTI+s is going on in the detention centers in Chechnya, the invasion started by Russia towards Ukraine, would lead LGBTI+ hostility to become widespread also in our region. We know that wars mostly affect vulnerable groups who already have difficulties in accessing rights, from the history of humanity. War policies, militarism and nationalism provoked by the states, return to LGBTI+s as violence everywhere, more particularly in the regions crushed by war.” they added.

These sentiments are echoed by the words of Lenny Emson, executive director of Kyiv Pride, who in an interview with said: “We are afraid that Putin will come here and drag us back to an oppressive past that he himself has created in Russia. That he will force us in that place where there’s no space for anyone: not for Ukrainians, not for LGBT+ people.”

These concerns are all the more real given the situation the LGBTQ+ community is facing in Russia in recent years, which has been aggravated by the introduction of the anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law in 2013. Queer people face constant persecution in Russia, with LGBTQ+ gathering places being continually shut down and more and more people being forced to escape the country in order to live a normal life.

Activists are scared that this invasion will mean that this type of hostility will then spread also in their region and their fears are not unfounded. Indeed, a US official has recently warned the United Nations that Russia is planning to attack “vulnerable populations” who refuse to live by Russian ideals in Ukraine, which includes the LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ+ movement in Ukraine is the largest in East Europe. It’s an organised movement of activists that have been fighting for rights for years. We’ve accomplished so much, even though now it all seems far away. Especially today,” added Lenny Emson.

When asked what the rest of the world can do to help with the situation in Ukraine, these activists responded that they do not want to be left alone. “We call on all the right organizations in our country and across the world to fight against war. We are with LGBTI+s and LGBTI+ organizations that struggle for peace in Ukraine and Russia. No to war!” said Kaos GL. Kyiv Pride has also launched a fundraising campaign that you can find here.

Meanwhile, the Eurovision Song Contest has confirmed that Russia will still be able to participate in the 2022 competition despite the invasion, claiming that they are “a non-political cultural event which unites nations and celebrates diversity through music”. This year will mark the 66th edition of the contest and it is going to take place in Turin in May.

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