KIEV: Ukrainian politicians and foreign diplomats joined thousands marching in a gay pride parade in Kiev, the biggest and most peaceful ever in the former Soviet country.
Crowds of people, many dressed in bright colors, paraded along streets in the center of the Ukrainian capital, holding up banners saying “Diversity is beautiful”, “Human rights = happy country”, “No violence – yes rights!”.
They were flanked by a thick cordon of police in helmets but there was no sign of violence despite the presence of a few hundred protesters.
March in Kiev was part of “Pride Month” celebrated by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people around the world.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian who took office last month, has promoted a tolerant culture, saying he stands for all people’s equality and freedom.
“Our desire is to convey to a majority of people that LGBT is normality,” Eduard, a 17-year-old tattoo artist, told Reuters.
“I am taking part for the fifth time. Ukraine is making significant progress compared to previous years, security and organization are much better.”
Zelenskiy’s office urged the police to prevent violence and guarantee the safety of participants in the March of Equality.
“Ukraine’s Constitution states that citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms,” it said in a post on its Facebook page on Sunday morning.
Ruslana Panukhnyk, one of the organizers of the capital’s annual gay pride march, told journalists after the event that about 8,000 people had attended it far more than 5,000 last year.