For several years now, I think 4, Kiev has been having significant queer pride marches, and for just as many years extreme right wingers have been attempting to violently stop the marches. Consider this BBC story from 2015, for instance. Just how extreme have they been? Well, in 2015 they injured several cops, at least one seriously, in their efforts to disrupt the event. There was another outburst of violence by Ukrainian wing nuts today, but it was followed by large numbers of arrests of these protesters, with no arrests of Pride marchers that I can find. It’s very, very possible that this is a sign that things are getting better.
By law, Ukraine protects a certain amount of political freedom from interference on the basis of sexual orientation, but this is only recently true. I don’t know anything about the Ukraine, but I suspect that any significant protection in fact has only existed since the 2014 ouster of Yanukovych following the famous Maidan Nezalezhnosti protests*1. To make the connection for US readers who might feel distant from the action, Yanukovych is the dictator who is wanted for looting the Ukrainian treasury and killing journalists and protestors who was so frustrated by his inability to stop US and western European media from criticizing him that he hired Paul Manafort – yes, that Paul Manafort – to go on a PR blitz legitimizing his dictatorial powers and whimsical murders.*2 The Yanukovych regime was virulently hostile to queer folks.
Still, there have been public pride events since 2014 now, and every single time the right wing – a wing dominated by Russia loyalists, hypocritical supporters of Orthodox Christianity, and racist nationalists – has committed violence to try and stop it. in 2014, 2016 & 2017 the violence was much smaller and more isolated, but every year since at least 2015 the police have arrested at least one of these Ukrainian wingnuts.
But is the consistent violence of the right wing winning them any victories? Earlier this year, Aksana Filipishyna, the anti-discrimination Ombudsperson of Ukraine, took nearly-unprecedented action in defense of queer rights by protesting the inclusion of an anti-queer petition on the website of center-right President Petro Poroshenko. Just today, the arrests of wingnut anti-Pride protesters seems to have resulted in more right-wing arrests than any previous anti-pride protests. And with the tribalism of police as firmly established as any form of tribalism on the planet, it’s hard not to imagine local law enforcement not getting fed up with these thugs who continue, year after year, to injure more of their sibling cops.
I’m not complacent about things. There’s still a government in Ukraine that depends on a very right-wing party for its parliamentary governing coalition (the People’s Front party). There’s still, obviously, a good many violent, conservative, nationalist thugs who are willing to hurt or even kill people to stave off political change. But I look at the continued clashes and wonder if their efforts are getting them anything other than arrested. Here’s hoping.
*1: I mention the Maidan protests though, yes, direct actions were widespread throughout Ukraine, just like the Tiananmen square protests were the most visible of a series of actions in China
*2: The money that Manafort was paid for this very work became the basis for the money laundering and tax evasion investigations against him. Moreover, if you noticed that on Friday Manafort’s bail was revoked and he was remanded to jail for witness tampering, the witness tampering he was doing was calling people up to tell them to lie about exactly this PR campaign. That’s right, Trump’s campaign manager had a history of propping up dictators who killed queers, journalists, lefties, and political opponents generally. But Caitlyn Jenner was confident that the Republicans aren’t anti-queer. Uh-huh.