Unknown assailants attacked a gay pride march in the Ukranian capital Kyiv, throwing smoke bombs and wounding several police officers. At least nine police officers were injured during the event, which had originally been intended to take only 10 minutes. Four marchers were also hurt.
Despite warnings from city mayor Vitaly Klitschko, who had advised the event should be cancelled on account of the threat of violence from far-right groups, organizers for the 'March of Equality' confirmed in the morning that the rally along the Dnipro river would go ahead. The parade was the second of its kind in the country's post-Soviet history.
"This march shows that we exist. We are fighting for equal rights that, unlike others in Ukraine, we currently lack," a 31-year-old woman told AFP, wishing to remain anonymous..
"I am very frightened," she said. "But I am also very proud of myself - proud that I came out and so many people supported us."
Despite the presence of several hundred police in riot gear, the march of around 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists and their supporters still came under attack. Members of the Right Sector nationalist organization had threatened to disrupt the protest to defend conservative values.
The fight broke out when the police tried to keep a few dozen men from attacking the peaceful marchers with rainbow banners after jumping out of a bus bearing Right Sector insignia.
Parliamentary member Serhiy Leshchenko said that around 30 people were arrested during the assault, but a police statement specified that only 25 nationalists had been detained and taken in for questioning.
President in support of right to demonstrate
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had announced on the eve of the protest that he fully supported the marchers, defending the demonstration as a "constitutional civil right," but added that he would refrain from attending the event himself.
Ukrainian authorities have increased their support for LGBTI rights since a new pro-European government, keen to promote civil liberties, came to power after last year's street protests in Kyiv.
A 2013 poll by GfK Ukraine showed that nearly 80 percent of those surveyed opposed sexual relations between members of the same sex.
ss/sgb (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)