Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 18.06.2018
Kyiv Pride, a March for Equality, was held in Ukraine’s capital on June 17. Advocates for LGBTQ2 empowerment and for equality rights paraded through the centre of the city. The turn-out for Kyiv Pride 2018 was the largest ever: organizers said 5,000 people attended, while a more cautious police estimate put the crowd size at 3,500. Kyiv can claim to be the host of the largest equality rights march in eastern Europe. This is a testament to the open and tolerant society Ukrainians have built, and how quintessentially European and Western Ukraine has become since the Revolution of Dignity.
Members of a far-right group, C14, tried to block the start of the march. They were vastly outnumbered by police and National Guard members, who pushed them back. Kyiv Pride passed off without any major security incident.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representation in Ukraine participated. The UN is banned from directly observing Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea and Russian-occupied Ukrainian Donbas, where marches for equality are ruthlessly suppressed by the Putin regime, as they are in Russia. The ambassadors to Ukraine from Canada and from the United States marched.
Ukrainian human rights activists and celebrities were in attendance.
Germany’s Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth, was in Kyiv for the March for Equality. He wrote on Twitter: “Really honoured to attend #KyivPride2018. Thanks for organising such a great march for #equality and against discrimination! Grateful to police for ensuring the safety of demonstrators!”
Rebecca Harms is a Member of the European Parliament from Germany. She is a member of the Alliance '90/The Greens, part of the European Green Party. Ukraine has no firmer friend in the European Parliament than Rebecca Harms. Most recently she led the motion for a resolution on Russia, notably the case of Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov. Rebecca Harms was in the front row of the Kyiv Pride march.
Because of the presence of the two prominent German politicians, Kyiv Pride got considerable attention in Germany. Given how overwhelmed Germans are with Russian propaganda which is entirely negative about Ukraine, it must have been a wake-up call to see a demonstration of diversity in Kyiv as normal as one would be in Berlin.
But Russia is invading Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas, and must always play the spoiler. The hand of Putin at war was seen in a “prank” played against Rebecca Harms and in the biased coverage of Kyiv Pride by the Moscow-bureaux Western press.
In what was almost certainly an operation of the Russian intelligence services, Rebecca Harms was informed by someone claiming to be from the Presidential administration of Ukraine that a draft law on equal rights was being prepared. In fact no such law has been proposed. It only exists as a phantom of information warfare against Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms.
Rebecca Harms wrote a pair of tweets to clear up the mess. “Me and my office have been misinformed systematically about a draft law on LGBT rights using fabricated phone and mail identity and posing as President's chief of staff. This was my own experience with ongoing disinformation war. I am sorry for problems miscommunication caused. I would like to underline that the incident doesn’t affect the fact that today’s #KyivPride is a substantial success for Ukraine and advancement of civil rights and equality for Ukrainians. I thank Ukrainian police and National Guard for protecting the event,” she wrote.
Reporting from Moscow or with a pro-Russia bent, most Western media focussed on the police presence and the far-right agitators, and downplayed the people at the centre of the days events, the marchers themselves. Agence France Presse had the headline “Kiev police detain 56 far-right activists during LGBT march” – using the Russian occupier name for Kyiv and using a photo of far-right activists rather than equality marchers.
Alec Luhn is the Russia correspondent for The Telegraph. He quoted a Russian news website, theins.ru, not a Ukrainian one, and wrote on Twitter: “Kiev police have detained 56 at the LGBT pride parade, where fights have broken out between participants and people trying to stop the parade. Five cops have been injured.” Note that he also used the Russian occupier name for Kyiv and sent no tweets about the March for Equality itself.
Russian infowar and Russia-compromised journalists could not sully Kyiv Pride. Ukraine held the largest march for equality ever in eastern Europe. Such a thing would not be possible were it not for the Revolution of Dignity of the Ukrainian people which happened over four years ago. “In the country of free, be yourself” – that was one slogan at Kyiv Pride. Politics is practicing the art of living comfortably with strangers in the public realm. Every polity must work on this, all the time. With a successful March for Equality, Ukrainians show that a fresh accommodation is emerging in the country. Kyiv Pride showed that with the starting point of the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine is set firmly on its path to Europe, on its path to the West.