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Ukraine LGBTQ+ activist flees Kyiv

Insight Chair Olena Shevchenko is now in Lviv



Olena Shevchenko (Photo via Facebook)

LVIV, Ukraine — The head of an LGBTQ+ rights group in Ukraine has fled the country’s capital.

Insight Chair Olena Shevchenko on March 10 left her home in Kyiv and evacuated to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine that is close to the country’s border with Poland.

Shevchenko on Tuesday told the Washington Blade that she fled Kyiv because of the “bombings, the absence of working possibilities, medicines and some food as well.” Shevchenko said she continues to work to help LGBTQ Ukrainians who remain trapped in Kyiv and in other cities that Russian forces continue to attack.

“(It’s) pretty hard,” Shevchenko told the Blade. “I think I’m almost at my limits.”

Shevchenko wrote an op-ed that the Blade published on Feb. 24, the same day that Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

“Our activists from the LGBTQI+ communities are staying and keep working, providing support to the most marginalized ones,” wrote Shevchenko. “Honestly, I don’t know how long we will be able to resist, but we will do our best for sure.”

Shevchenko in her op-ed acknowledged concerns that Russia may target LGBTQ+ Ukrainians and other groups if it were to gain control of the country.

Magomed Tushayev, a Chechen warlord who played a role in the anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown in his homeland, died on Feb. 26 during a skirmish with the Ukrainian military’s elite Alpha Group outside of Kyiv. A White House official the day earlier told the Blade that the Biden administration has “engaged directly” with LGBTQ+ Ukrainians and other vulnerable populations.

Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova, his Ukrainian colleague, died on Monday outside of Kyiv when their vehicle was attacked. The same incident left Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall injured.

Brent Renaud, an American journalist and filmmaker, died in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin on Sunday after Russian forces attacked his car and shot him in the head. The New York Times reported the same attack left Juan Arredondo, a photographer and professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, injured.

LGBTQ+ groups continue to raise funds for Ukraine counterparts

Shevchenko on Tuesday told the Blade that Insight has raised $51,000 since the invasion began.

OutRight Action International on its website says the fund it launched to support LGBTQ+ rights groups in Ukraine has raised more than $525,000.

Pride organizations across Europe have donated $54,862.45 (€50,000) to Ukrainian advocacy organizations. Prague Pride has worked with Alturi, a group that promotes global engagement on LGBTQ+ issues, to raise more than $12,000 to support groups inside Ukraine and to provide assistance to LGBTQ+ Ukrainians who reach the Czech Republic.

“While the situation is grim we can offer hope to our LGBTI family in Ukraine,” says Alturi on its website.

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Eastern Europe

Activists in Ukraine to celebrate Pride

March scheduled to take place in Kharkiv on Sept. 25



Kharkiv Pride (Photo courtesy of Kharkiv Pride)

KHARKIV, Ukraine — Activists in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv will hold a series of Pride events in the coming days.

A press release that Kharkiv Pride released notes events that will take place from Saturday through Sept. 25 include a march, a performance that highlights efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Ukraine and a “Memorial Day” for “LGBTQI+ people killed by the Russian Federation.”

Kharkiv Pride and Kharkiv with You Charitable Foundation, a local NGO, will also hold “a crowdfunding campaign to collect money for the needs of women serving near Kharkiv.” 

“Just as Kharkiv stands at the forefront of Ukraine’s struggle for freedom and democracy, Kharkiv Pride actively resists at the forefront of the battle for human rights,” said Kharkiv Pride. ” Because this is our principal position, and this is the difference between Ukraine and the totalitarian regime of the Russian Federation.”

Kharkiv, which is Ukraine’s second-largest city, is less than 30 miles from the Russian border in the eastern part of the country.

A Russian airstrike on March 1 killed Elvira Schemur, an LGBTQ+ and intersex activist who was a volunteer for Kharkiv Pride and Kyiv Pride.

Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have recaptured large swaths of territory east of Kharkiv that had been under Russian control. Kharkiv Pride will also take place less than two months after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky announced his support for a civil partnership law for same-sex couples.

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Eastern Europe

Ukraine president backs civil partnerships law

Volodymyr Zelenskky responded to Kyiv Pride petition



A participant in the Christopher Street Day parade in Berlin on July 23, 2022, indicates her support for LGBTQ and intersex Ukrainians. The country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskky, has publicly endorsed a civil partnership law for same-sex couples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky on Tuesday said he supports a civil partnership law for same-sex couples.

Kyiv Pride backed a marriage equality petition that was submitted to Volodymyr Zelenskky on July 12 with more than 28,000 signatures, which is higher than the legal threshold that requires him to consider it. 

Zelenskky in his response to the petition notes his support for marriage equality, but acknowledges the Ukrainian constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman and it cannot be amended while the country is under martial law. Zelenskky on Tuesday nevertheless directed his government to submit a report on whether same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships through the country’s existing legal framework or a bill that would go through Parliament.

“I appealed to the prime minister of Ukraine with a request to consider the issue raised in the electronic petition and report about the relevant results,” said Zelenskky.

Zelenskyy last year pledged his country would continue to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after he met with President Joe Biden at the White House. 

Anastasiia Baraniuk and Yulia Mulyukina, a lesbian couple who once lived in the Ukrainian city of Dniper, are among the millions of people who have fled the country since Russia began its war on Feb. 24. Baraniuk and Mulyukina last month told the Washington Blade in Berlin the fact that they are unable to legally prove they are in a relationship has prevented them from asking for asylum in the U.S. and Canada because the countries’ immigration systems are based on whether they are married or “common-law partners” respectively.

“Right now we are looking for a way to get the proof that we are a couple,” said Baraniuk. “We don’t want to stay in Berlin.”

From left: Yulia Mulyukina and Anastasiia Baraniuk fled their home in Dniper, Ukraine, in April. They now live in Berlin. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Kyiv Pride on Tuesday welcomed Zelenskyy’s announcement.

“Congratulations to the community, the Pride movement,” tweeted Kyiv Pride. “Thank you to the authorities.”

Maksym Eristavi, who chairs Kyiv Pride’s board of directors, desribed Zelenskyy’s announcement as “historic.”

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Eastern Europe

LGBTQ+ pride parade in Bucharest draws ten thousand plus people

Dancing & waving rainbow, trans, and progress flags, participants protested proposed legislation that would ban future Pride gatherings



Screenshot/YouTube Euronews

BUCHAREST, Romania – Supporters and activists of the LGBTQ+ movement numbering an estimated ten thousand people took part in Bucharest Pride 2022, marching along Calea Victoriei to Izvor Park in the city’s center Saturday afternoon into evening.

Pride was organised by ACCEPT, the non-governmental human rights organization in Romania that defends and promotes LGBTQ+ rights.

Dancing and waving rainbow, trans, and LGBTQ+ progress flags, participants protested proposed legislation in the Parliament of Romania that could potentially endanger future LGBTQ+ Pride parades and foster further anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

A bill already approved by one body of lawmakers in Parliament would bans so-called “gay propaganda” in schools, mirroring similar legislation in Hungary and Russia.

EURONEWS Romania: Bucureștiul, scena a două marșuri, Bucharest Pride și „Marșul pentru normalitate”:

(Romanian language broadcast)
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