- Title: Gay war veteran speaks out for equal rights in Ukraine's military
- Date: 17th September 2021
- Summary: KYIV, UKRAINE (RECENT - SEPTEMBER 2021) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN WAR VETERAN AND HEAD OF NGO 'UKRAINIAN LGBT MILITARY FOR EQUAL RIGHTS', VIKTOR PYLYPENKO, SAYING: "It (LGBT activism) became a continuation of my personal war against the enslavement of a human being's freedom. I volunteered to go to the front line because I understood that they (Russian-backed separatists) want to deprive us of freedom, they want to deprive the whole country of freedom. As a gay man, I was very sensitive to this. I pursued my fight after the war, but through activism."
- Embargoed: 1st October 2021 14:06
- Keywords: Kyiv pride LGBT+community Viktor Pylypenko armed forces tolerance
- Location: KYIV, UKRAINE / UNKNOWN LOCATIONS
- City: KYIV, UKRAINE / UNKNOWN LOCATIONS
- Country: Ukraine
- Topics: Europe,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA003EV3WAIH
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Viktor Pylypenko has become a role model for dozens of LGBT+ Ukrainian war veterans and their supporters since he organised their participation two years ago in Kyiv's largest-ever gay pride march.
Pylypenko, 34, spent almost two years from 2014 to 2016 on the front line fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has claimed at least 14,000 lives.
He came out as gay in 2018.
"(LGBT activism) became a continuation of my personal war against the enslavement of a human being's freedom," Pylypenko told Reuters ahead of Kyiv's annual pride march on Sunday.
And he makes a direct link between his sexual orientation and the cause for which he says he was fighting - a free and sovereign Ukraine in which all enjoy equal rights.
"I volunteered to go to the front line because I understood that they (the separatists) want to deprive us of freedom, they want to deprive the whole country of freedom. As a gay man, I was very sensitive to this," he said.
Pylypenko, who has set up a non-governmental organisation to support LGBT+ people in the military, said he received support from other members of his batallion, adding that they were more interested in his military record and commitment than his sexual orientation.
He believes having more LGBT+ people serving in the military, a respected institution in Ukraine, can help overcome prejudice towards sexual minorities in the ex-Soviet republic.
"The military can change society's attitudes, they have the reputation, they have trust, they have defended peace in Ukraine," said Pylypenko, who comes from a military family that he says has accepted his sexuality.
Ukraine's Western-backed government has increased support for LGBT+ rights in recent years.
Parliament outlawed workplace discrimination in 2015, though homophobic attitudes remain fairly widespread.
Gay pride marches regularly attract counter-protests by far-right and religious activists.
After Kyiv's 2015 pride march was disrupted by violent attacks, city authorities now deploy a large police presence to maintain order and protect participants.
Pylypenko said his dream was for armed forces divisions to take part in gay pride marches "as allies and enjoy the fact that they live in a developed country with equality of human rights, where they are not ashamed of the topic of homosexuality, but support it and openly raise rainbow flags."
(Production: Margaryta Chornokondratenko, Sergiy Karazy, Valentyn Ogirenko)
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