A rush of LGBT+ volunteers in Ukraine are preparing for combat after the Russian invasion.
Veronika Limina, from Lviv, has been running a camp which teaches volunteer LGBT+ cadets basic combat and paramedic skills, the Daily Beast reports.
Limina, who works for an NGO promoting equal rights for LGBT+ people in the military, told the news outlet that she has signed up for Lviv’s territorial defence force and is prepared to fight as Putin’s forces move into the west of the country.
“I am angry… We will kill Putin,” she told the Daily Beast.
Andrii Kravchuk works at the Nash Svit Cente in Kyiv. He said a Russian occupation of the country could lead to “total lawlessness and repressions”, and that he knows of many LGBT+ people who are joining the territorial defence forces, as well as LGBT+ veterans who are returning to service.
He told the Daily Beast: “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.
“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.”
The threat of Russian occupancy brings an additional danger to queer Ukrainians: Putin and his regime are intensely and violently anti-LGBT+, and reports suggest LGBT+ people are among those whose names are on “kill lists” drawn up ahead of the invasion.
A Ukrainian delegation is due to meet Russia on Monday morning (28 February) after a terrifying and uncertain weekend of fighting, which saw Vladimir Putin moved Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces to high alert.
Though not a declaration of intent to use nuclear weapons, Putin’s latest escalation has been forcefully condemned and was followed by a new raft of EU sanctions.
The Guardian reports 352 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since Russia’s invasion of the country.
According to the UN, at least 368,000 people have fled the country with many thousands more displaced internally.
However, there have been widespread reports of Black people, including African migrants, encountering racism as they attempt to flee.
Videos shared on Twitter appear to show Ukrainian officials blocking Black people from boarding trains to leave the country, while a group of 24 Jamaican students were forced to walk 20km to Poland after being denied entry to a bus. At the border, there have been reports of Polish official refusing Black people asylum.
In the UK, Boris Johnson is facing increasing pressure to waive visa rules for Ukrainians. Over the weekend the government announced that family members of Brits will be able to apply for a free visa, however the scheme only covers spouse and civil partners, unmarried partners of at least two years, children under the age of 18, parents or their children if one is under 18, and adult relatives who are carers.
The executive director of Kyiv Pride has urged the international LGBT+ community to help.
Speaking with LGBT+ radio station GlitterBeam, director of Kyiv Pride Lenny Emson said the situation in Ukraine is one of “panic” and “anxiety”, urging listeners to provide “international political support”
“Of course, there is some anxiety, there is some panic, we’re all people, but first of all, we’re angry and we’re ready to fight. We want this to end. We want peace,” he said.
Emson explained that while “we would not say that we [the LGBT+ community in Ukraine] are totally fully accepted in society”, the country has made progress in terms of LGBT+ rights, which an invasion by Russia could strip back.
“We understand that LGBT+ Pride will be the first target for Russia… but we believe in the Ukrainian army that has been fighting already for 24 hours holding Russia back. We want to hope and we want to believe that the international community will stand up and help us in this fight.
“We don’t want to believe that Ukraine will be Russia. There is no space for human rights in that country. We don’t want Ukraine to be the same, and we are going to fight against it.”