Thousands attend Kiev gay pride amid tight security

Kiev (AFP) - More than 2,000 people took part in Kiev's gay pride event on Sunday amid a heavy police presence, as nationalist protesters tried to stop the event and set fire to a rainbow flag.

Participants walked through the city centre protected from counter-protesters by Ukrainian police in helmets and bullet-proof vests as well as National Guard troops.

Ukraine's pro-European authorities ensured the gay pride event could go ahead despite widespread homophobic attitudes in the ex-Soviet country where gay marriage is not permitted.

Police said around 2,500 marchers took part, protected by almost 5,000 officers. They detained six protesters who tried to break through a cordon of riot police.

None of the marchers were injured, the interior ministry said, but the head of Kiev police said two of its officers suffered minor injuries.

"Finally in our country we are able to come out for our rights and show that we exist," said one participant, Tetyana.

"I feel nervous and happy that I can come out and not fear anything."

Another marcher Volodymyr Kosenko said: "I feel pride today because I see round me my friends and acquaintances and my husband. I see people who came out to say that everyone is equal in Ukraine."

Marchers shouted slogans such as "We're different, we're equal!" and "Ukraine for all!"

Among the marchers was British Ambassador Judith Gough, who wrote on Twitter there was a "fine party atmosphere.

But more than 100 ultra-nationalists tried to block the route and burned a rainbow flag.

"I'm convinced that this is wrong. It's a sin and it can destroy our country morally," said Irina, a student.

"I condemn the propaganda of homosexuality in Ukraine and particularly the holding of gay parades. I came to speak out against it. The Bible says clearly it's a sin," added Kyrylo Babentsov, another protester.

A spokeswoman for Amnesty International in Ukraine, Mariya Guryeva, praised the police for ensuring crowd safety, calling this "very positive."

"This is positive evidence the Ukrainian authorities are trying to ensure the citizens' rights to peaceful protests and to express their views," she told AFP.

But she cautioned that homophobic crimes still largely go uninvestigated and police "are very reluctantly to put such crimes on record."

Last year's Kiev event was held in the city centre for the first time amid an unprecedented police presence and attracted around 700 participants.

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