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Kiev gay rights march ends in injuries, arrests

07 june 2015, 10:57
0
Riot policemen arrest a right-wing activist during a protest against the first "March of Equality" parade in Kiev. ©AFP
Riot policemen arrest a right-wing activist during a protest against the first "March of Equality" parade in Kiev. ©AFP

 At least 10 people were injured and 25 arrested in Kiev on Saturday as scuffles broke out between members of a rare Ukrainian gay pride march and their nationalist foes, AFP reports.

The socially-conservative country -- locked in a bruising war with pro-Russian insurgents -- is seeking a closer alliance with Europe and remains keen to promote civil liberties freely enjoyed in much of the West.

The "March of Equality" parade staged at a scenic stretch of the Dniepr River on the capital's northern outskirts was scheduled to last only 10 minutes out of security concerns.

The event was only the second in Ukraine's post-Soviet history and immediately generated intense public debate.

Members of the Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) nationalist organisation -- once central to the demonstrations that toppled a Russian-backed president last year -- had on this occasion promised to disrupt the protest and defend more conservative values.

But around 100 activists of all ages still showed up for the rally after being informed of its location by the main organisers only a few hours in advance.

"This march shows that we exist. We are fighting for equal rights that, unlike others in Ukraine, we currently lack," said a 31-year-old woman who agreed to identify herself only as Vira out of concerns for both her safety and future career prospects.

"I am very frightened," she admitted. "But I am also very proud of myself -- proud that I came out and so many people supported us."

   Ukraine 'passes important test' 
Yet a sense of impending doom hung over the rally on the sun-drenched weekend afternoon.

Scuffles broke out when police tried to keep a few dozen young men who had jumped out of a bus bearing Right Sektor insignia from attacking the peaceful march.

Ambulance workers said one police woman suffered a neck injury. The Kiev police department later said eight other officers and one far right group member were also slightly hurt.

The police statement added that 25 nationalists -- many of them clad in black balaclavas -- had been detained and taken in for questioning.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on the eve of the protest that he fully supported the marchers but would refrain from marching himself.

"As far as the 'March of Equality' is concerned, I view it from both the perspective of a Christian and a pro-European president. I believe these are two completely compatible ideas," Poroshenko told reporters.

"I will not be taking part," said the 49-year-old leader. "But I see no grounds for someone to try and disturb it, since this is the constitutional right of every Ukrainian citizen."

Amnesty International said "the fact that the march went ahead as planned means that Ukraine passed an important step."

But the global human rights group added that "Ukrainian authorities should have done more in advance to prevent attacks against gay pride marchers."


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