Masked men hurl smoke bombs at venue of Ukraine gay rights forum

Masked men have hurled smoke bombs into a venue in the Ukraine port city of Odessa where gay rights activists were about to hold a forum.

They threw “several” smoke bombs at the participants before fleeing, Odessa Pride spokesman Kyrylo Bodelan said, adding that no-one was hurt in the attack.

LGBT activists were planning to hold a forum on the history of the gay rights movement in the strategic Black Sea port city, after a local court on Thursday banned a planned march over fears it could spark violence.

Mr Bodelan earlier denounced the ban, saying it was “illegal and violates our constitutional right of assembly”.

A handful of activists demonstrated near the town hall in defiance of the ban, drawing taunts from passers-by.

Reports said an elderly woman was trying to wrest a placard from one demonstrator that read “Dignity Has No Colour”.

Police quickly intervened to defuse the confrontation.

Prominent extreme nationalist group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) — once central to the demonstrations in Kiev that toppled a Russian-backed president last year — had voiced fierce opposition to Saturday’s event.

“We won’t beat the gays, but this march will not take place,” local Pravy Sektor leader Sergui Sternenko was quoted as saying.

A gay pride march in the capital Kiev in June — the second in the nation’s post-Soviet history — was marred by scuffles after activists were attacked by far-right nationalists.

About a dozen people were injured.

The socially conservative country — locked in a bruising war with pro-Russian insurgents — is seeking a closer alliance with Europe and remains keen to promote civil liberties freely enjoyed in much of the West.

But homophobia remains rampant in a nation where the conservative Orthodox church wields considerable influence and nationalist far-right groups have grown more prominent.

Odessa regional governor Mikheil Saakashvili, the Westernising ex-president of Georgia, kept his distance from the controversy, with his administration insisting it was a matter for the city authorities.

by AFP
Source – ABC News