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Gay soldier flees Russian missile strike during speech honoring Ukrainian LGBTQ+ servicemembers

Gay soldier flees Russian missile strike during speech honoring Ukrainian LGBTQ+ servicemembers
Photo: Shutterstock

During an exhibit honoring LGBTQ+ servicemembers in Ukraine, one servicemember speaking on video reportedly had to abruptly sign off to seek shelter when a Russian missile attack occurred.

According to the Los Angeles Blade, the moment occurred during a photography exhibit in the United States to honor LGBTQ+ and intersex servicemembers in Ukraine, where the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, emphasized the importance of advancing LGBTQ+ equality.

The exhibit was organized by a group of Ukrainian LGBTQ+ organizations: the Ukrainian Union of the LBGT Military, KyivPride, and LGBTQ Ukrainians in America (QUA).

Russia’s war with Ukraine rages on, and in a speech at the photo exhibit, Markarova thanked LGBTQ+ servicemembers and declared, “It’s unbelievable and [the] ultimate sacrifice to be there in harm’s way,” The Blade reported.

“[The] LGBTQ+ community is an inseparable community of us, whether it’s here or in Ukraine,” Markarova also said. “The faster we can stop any discrimination, the faster we will win, not only on the battlefield in Ukraine, but we also will win globally.”

Gay Ukrainian servicemember and LGBTQ+ activist Viktor Pylipenko, who also founded the Ukrainian Union of the LGBT Military, is the servicemember who spoke on video before having to cut it short.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, LGBTQ+ people have been terrified of what a Russian victory could mean for their rights.

While Ukraine does not fully recognize LGBTQ+ rights – marriage equality is not legal, for example – the country has come much farther than Russia, where LGBTQ+ people continue to be actively persecuted.

Since the invasion, LGBTQ+ Ukrainians have stepped up to fight.

“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 activist Veronika Limina early last year. “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.”

In June, an LGBTQ Nation correspondent in Ukraine reported on the Russian army’s “vile anti-gay agenda, which has included desires and plans to, and how do I put this nicely, to castrate and kill gay men,” as explained by a U.S. investigator.

Throughout all of this, Ukraine has been working to advance LGBTQ+ equality.

This past December, Ukrainian passed a bill that would ban hate speech and incitement based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The media regulation bill was unanimously approved on December 15.

And in August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated his support for same-sex civil partnerships and potentially same-sex marriage. Ukraine has banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity since 2015, and Zelensky promised that he would continue to fight anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination after he met with President Joe Biden at the White House last year.

The moves toward LGBTQ+ equality in Ukraine stand in contrast to Russia’s recent crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a law expanding the country’s prohibition on LGBTQ+ “propaganda.” The law effectively outlaws any public expression of LGBTQ+ identity in Russia by banning “any action or the spreading of any information that is considered an attempt to promote homosexuality in public, online, or in films, books or advertising.”

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