As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, a group of armed vandals broke into and ransacked the LGBTQ center in the capital city of Kyiv, attacking the center’s workers and leaving them unsure of what to do.
Near midnight on Tuesday, the group of men spent an hour trying to break down the front door of the LGBT Human Rights Nash Mir Center. As the men tried, four center employees who reside on the premises contacted police. However, police didn’t respond, possibly due to the country being under siege by Russian forces.
After the vandals successfully knocked down the front door, they proceeded to trash and steal from the offices. One vandal even “seriously” bit one of the center’s workers, injuring them.
One of the center’s co-coordinators initially thought that the men might be a group of Russian terrorists. However, the worker suspects the group could have been made up of Ukrainian citizens who took advantage of the wartime chaos to attack the offices.
The center has helped educate and protect the legal rights of the local queer community for almost 20 years. Now, it’s asking for donations to help recover from the vandals’ attack.
The group has its work cut out for it. Ukraine decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual encounters after declaring independence from the failed Soviet Union in 1991. Nevertheless, in the 21st century, the country’s government has considered passing its own Russian-style ban on “gay propaganda.” A 2016 poll conducted by the center showed that 60 percent of Ukrainians felt negatively towards gay people.
Now that Russia is invading, LGBTQ Ukrainians worry that Russians will instill rabidly anti-queer sentiment in their homeland. Russian forces reportedly have a post-invasion “kill list” which includes LGBTQ citizens, U.S. officials say.
“Ukraine is a European country. We have a 10-year history of Pride marches, and as you know, in Russia, the situation is like opposite,” Kyiv Pride project assistant Edward Reese told CBS News. “We have totally different paths…We see the changes in people’s thoughts about human rights, LGBTQ, feminism and so on…So definitely we don’t want anything connected to Russia…and we won’t have them.”
But queer Ukrainians are actively fighting against the Russian invaders. Earlier this week, LGBTQ Ukrainians captured a group of Russian soldiers found hiding in a basement in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.