Ukraine’s LGBTQ community joins fight against Russian invaders

LGBTQ Ukrainians are among the tens of thousands who have picked up arms to fight against the Russian invasion.

Members of Ukraine’s LGBTQ community are part of the battle against Russian invaders. (Photo courtesy of The Daily Beast)

These are excerpts from a Daily Beast report (subscription required):

Ukraine’s Gay Combat Volunteers Are Ready to Fight for Their Lives Against Anti-LGBTQ Putin

Desperate to avoid the shadow of Vladimir Putin’s bigoted regime falling over Ukraine, LGBTQ combat volunteers told The Daily Beast that members of the gay community had been rushing to prepare for this invasion of Ukraine in recent weeks.

Now, they stand ready to fight back and resist a Russian occupation if Putin’s forces look to remain on Ukrainian soil.

Veronika Limina, who lives in Lviv in the far West of the country, has been running a camp, teaching volunteer LGBTQ cadets basic combat and paramedic skills.

She has signed up for Lviv’s territorial defense force and says she is ready to join the fighting, as Putin’s forces move West across the country.

“I am angry,” she told The Daily Beast, as the Russians bombed cities and drove tanks deeper into Ukrainian territory. “We will kill Putin.”

Limina, who works for an NGO promoting equal rights for LGBT people in the military, says the gay community in Ukraine will resist Russian occupation despite continued discrimination at home. The alternative is unbearable.

“Either we defend our country, and it will become a part of the free world, or there will not be any freedom for us and will not be Ukraine at all.”

On Sunday, the U.S. warned that Russia has a “kill list” of Ukrainians to be detained or killed. The list reportedly contains many journalists, LGBTQ+ people, politicians, and government officials.

The creation of the organization Ukrainian LGBT Military for Equal Rights and the pre-invasion protest above were featured in a review of the LGBTQ rights situation in Ukraine by USAID and the Ukrainian LGBTQ rights group Nash Svit / Nash Mir / Our World. (Click the image to download the report.)

Andrii Kravchuk, who works at the LGBTQ Nash Svit Center, in Kyiv said the impact of Russia’s homophobia had been felt in his hometown in the Donbas region, which he fled after the 2014 invasion.

“We are very conscious of the threats which we have faced—as both Ukrainians and LGBT+ people. We understand that the Russian occupation would mean total lawlessness and repressions—we see it right now in the Ukrainian-occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas,” he said.

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“Now we have only two options: either we defend our country, and it will become a part of the free world, or there will not be any freedom for us and will not be Ukraine at all,” she said. …

“Many LGBT+ activists, who have an experience of participation in the Euromaidan events, are joining the Territorial Defense forces or holding training in paramedical help,” said Kravchuk. “LGBT+ people who served in the army and military volunteers are ready to come back to their service. We are doing the same as the rest of the nation.” …

Valery Brown, who identifies as a lesbian, said she had also been training to resist Putin’s invasion. Before the conflict began, she told The Daily Beast: “I am trying to do my best to be prepared for different outcomes.”

Twenty-four hours after the invasion began, she wrote back: “This is horrible.”

Not all LGBTQ Ukrainians are preparing to fight. Some are volunteering to help frontline soldiers and LGBTQ civilians. Viktor Pylypenko, head of the NGO Ukrainian LGBT Soldiers, said many LGBTQ military folks are already on the frontline, and LGBTQ civilians are helping to gather money, equipment, weapons, and medical aid for frontline soldiers.

The Ukrainian LGBTQ community is showing strength and fearlessness even when Russian-backed separatists have already started shelling, and the western world is bracing for any possible outcome. Many have nowhere to go—Ukrainians and the LGBTQ community say they will fight to save their country.

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