Gay war veteran advocates for equal rights in Ukrainian military

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By Margaryta Chornokondratenko

KYIV – Viktor Pylypenko has become a model for dozens of Lgbt+ Ukrainian veterans and their supporters since he organized their participation two years ago in the biggest gay pride march ever in Kiev.

Pylypenko, 34, spent nearly two years from 2014-2016 on the front lines fighting with Kiev forces against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left at least 14,000 dead. He came out homosexual in 2018.

“(Lgbt activism) has become a continuation of my personal war against the enslavement of a human’s freedom, ”Pylypenko told Reuters ahead of the annual Kiev Pride March on Sunday.

And he makes a direct connection between his sexual orientation and the cause he says he is fighting for – a free and sovereign Ukraine in which all enjoy equal rights.

“I volunteered to go to the front because I understood that they (the separatists) want to deprive us of freedom, they want to deprive the whole country of freedom. As a homosexual, I was very sensitive to that, ”he said.

Pylypenko, who created a non-governmental organization to support LgbtMore soldiers, said he had received support from other members of his battalion, adding that they were more interested in his military record and engagement than in his sexual orientation.

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He thinks he has more Lgbt+ those serving in the military, a respected institution in Ukraine, can help overcome prejudices against sexual minorities in the former soviet republic.

“The military can change the attitudes of society, they have a reputation, they have confidence, they have stood up for peace in Ukraine,” said Pylypenko, who comes from a military family who he says accepted his sexuality. .

The West-backed Ukrainian government has stepped up support for Lgbt+ rights in recent years. Parliament banned discrimination in the workplace in 2015, although homophobic attitudes remain fairly widespread.

Gay pride marches regularly attract counter-demonstrations from far-right and religious activists. After the Kiev Pride March in 2015 was disrupted by violent attacks, the city authorities are deploying a large police presence to maintain order and protect participants.

Pylypenko said his dream was for divisions of the armed forces to participate in gay pride marches “as allies and take advantage of the fact that they live in a developed country with equal human rights where they live. are not ashamed of the subject of homosexuality but support it and openly hoist rainbow flags ”.


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