Ukrainian LGBTQ+ activists join resistance against Russia

While the Russian attack on Ukraine continues, LGBTQ+ people have joined the resistance. 

A protest against Russian invasion of Ukraine in New York. Ukranian LGBTQ+ activists are joining the fight against Russia.
Image: Twitter - @ALord18

As President Zelenskyy has called for anyone with military experience to help the defence forces, many in Ukraine have joined the resistance against the Russian invasion. Among them are the Ukrainian LGBTQ+ activists fighting against the “tyrannical, homophobic enemy”.

The fierce resistance posed by the Ukrainian army and citizens has managed to slow down the offensive. However, today Monday 28, it’s been reported that dozens of people were killed when Russian rocket strikes targeted Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and explosions were heard in the capital Kyiv, signalling that the war is far from over.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the order to put nuclear deterrence forces on high alert in an attempt to deter NATO from intervening. Moreover, today Russian and Ukrainian delegations are meeting in Belarus to try to establish a dialogue. Meanwhile, sanctions against Russia from different countries continue to grow and the EU is currently expecting Ukraine’s application to join the European Union, which will have to be assessed rapidly.

One of the Ukrainian LGBTQ+ activists to join the fight is Viktor Pylypenko, who is known for being the first out LGBTQ+ person in the country’s military and for leading a group of queer troops. He joined the military back in 2014 when Russia attacked and annexed Crimea.

“People are really scared that if the darkest prognosis will take place, the first thing Russia will do is rid civil society of activists — especially those who belong to the LGBTQ community and who are fighting for human rights. Human rights are the number one enemy for Putin’s regime,” he said in an interview with Gay City News.

He also reported that last week some LGBTQ+ activists found Russian soldiers hiding in the basement office of an LGBTQ+ group and captured them. He commented on the event by saying: “This is our war, the Ukrainians, but we have also been fighting as LGBTQ people, and I’m sure that the comrades in Kharkiv understood that” and added, “We are confronting a tyrannical, homophobic enemy”.

Andrii Kravchuk from Nash Mir Center, an organisation that monitors anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in Ukraine, said to the Daily Beasts that “LGBT+ people who served in the army and military volunteers are ready to come back to their service. We are doing the same as the rest of the nation.” He explained that there are only two options for LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine now: “either we defend our country, and it will become a part of the free world, or there will not be any freedom for us and will not be Ukraine at all.”

Lenny Emson, director of Kyiv Pride, was also very outspoken about the concerns that the Russian invasion raises for LGBTQ+ people in Ukraine. “We don’t want to believe that Ukraine will be Russia. There is no space for human rights in that country. We don’t want Ukraine to be the same, and we are going to fight against it.”

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, anti-war protesters have been taking to the streets of their cities to urge their governments to take more severe actions against Russia. In Dublin, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Russian Embassy for three consecutive days to show their opposition to the assault on Ukraine and to demand that Russian Ambassador Filatov be expelled from Ireland.

Anti-war protests have also taken place in Russia since the beginning of the invasion, showing that many Russian people don’t agree with the country’s leadership and this war. The police responded to these gatherings by arresting thousands of protestors, but this still hasn’t managed to stop the wave of dissent in the country.

Ukrainian LGBTQ+ activists in New York City also organised a demonstration outside the Stonewall Inn on February 27. The aim was to show solidarity to the people who are still in their home country and are now in danger. “Not surprisingly, everyone back home is terrified because, at this point, we will never know when the next shelling is going to happen,” said Polina Buchak, one of the participants. “Hopefully we will stop losing people — innocent civilians — because you can understand how terrifying it is. Sometimes there are not enough words to explain the emotions.”

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