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KIEV, Ukraine — Homophobic sentiment and violence against Ukraine’s gay community are on the rise despite increasing efforts to promote tolerance in the conservative ex-Communist nation, advocacy groups said Wednesday.
The community was forced to cancel its first ever gay pride parade in the capital, Kiev, in May due to concerns activists would be physically attacked by radical groups. After the cancellation, two gay leaders were violently beaten.
“We all deserve a chance,” John — the first person in Britain to take part in a gay marriage — told tens of thousands of cheering spectators on Kiev’s main square. “I plead with you Ukraine: stop the violence against gay people.”
Svyatoslav Sheremet, who leads Ukraine’s Gay Forum, said the community had decided to hold Ukraine’s first gay pride event believing that gays and lesbians were finally ready to be greeted by society. For every one gay Ukrainian who is out, he said, another 80 are forced to hide their sexuality.
But despite strong support from the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and other Western groups, they were forced to cancel the May 20 event on learning that hundreds of anti-gay activists had arrived in Kiev looking for confrontation.
Shortly after the parade was cancelled, Sheremet was first doused with pepper spray, and then kicked in the head, legs and arms by a group of youths wearing surgical mask. They then stomped on his back. A month later, Taras Karasiychuk, another gay parade organizer, sustained a concussion and a fractured jaw when he was attacked by men shouting homophobic insults outside his home.