February 21, 2022
Viktor Pylypenko, Ukrainian activist and veteran. He had gone to the frontline to protect Ukraine straight from the Maidan. After the war, Viktor was the first military who came out and got support from his fellow servicepeople. Now he is a leader of LGBT+ militaries and veterans community that has more than 1000 members. Viktor said that some of them live openly showing the rest of the world the democratic transformations in Ukraine.
How Russia distorts democratic transformations in Ukraine
As a group of militaries we faced and still face Russian fakes and propaganda. Russia - a country that invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea - is very homophobic. And when they acknowledged that some of Ukrainian militaries had done coming out they started using it as a reason for their disinformation policy. When I did my coming out their media wrote: “Look, what Revolution of Dignity brought to Ukraine!” Russia feeds its voters with this homophobic rhetoric. All democratic Ukrainian changes Russia distorts for its population. I think the target of these fakes are orthodox Russians. You see, Russia uses religion and the Moscow Patriarchate as an instrument of propaganda. And LGBT+ community is an enemy for this “Russian World”.
Recently they made a fake that Ukrainian military officials created an LGBT+ battalion which would attack occupied territories. This fake was broadcasted on Russian channels.
Can this disinformation influence on Ukrainians? Probably. Well, Ukrainians try to filter information they get but they can be tricked by such kinds of fakes, especially the residents of cities and villages which are close to the border with Russia. In those regions people can watch Russian news and it is hard to convince them that these TV-channels tell lies.
What danger lies in this disinformation
These fakes are created mostly for Russians to threaten them. Also these fakes are used by Ukrainian far-right group who attacks LGBT+ community in Ukraine. Actually, this group is not big but loud. They stand against these mocks from Russia`s side but at the same time frighten LGBT. As a result Russia tries to show the rest of the world that there are nazi in Ukraine.
But LGBT+ militaries say reasonably: we served side by side with straight people, we risked our lives, we are the same people as you and we deserve equal rights, so why are you against us and supporting Russian fakes? When we as activists explain Ukrainians the consequences of Russian fakes, the inequality LGBT faces now, values of human rights, they “get vaccinated” from all this disinformation. This work needs effort. The point is that the militaries in Ukraine have the highest level of trust. Thus when LGBT+ militaries come out and talk about their rights and rights of LGBT+ in general people start listening to them.
How Ukraine resists Russian fakes and propaganda
The key goal of the Revolution of Dignity was creation of civil society. And it was achieved. We have this civil society that cares about Ukraine. Yes, we still have corruption and other problems. But at the same time we have freedom and people who are not indifferent and ready to raise their voice and fight for rights.
Furthermore, the support from Western society is crucial for us. As a veteran I dream about membership in NATO. Well, at the moment it is not possible but still we feel support from Europe and the USA and it is so important for us.
Attitude towards LGBT+ is an indicator of democratic transformations. LGBT+ in Ukraine is at the forefront of human rights that is why we have to talk about it loudly and we need support in our activities. The projects, funded by our western partners, are really efficient. For example, we now realize three different projects with donations from three different countries. And we couldn't do it without such help. This is a huge and powerful instrument for democratic changes.
By starting war in Georgia, by starting war in Ukraine Putin showed Russians that every revolution would bring a war. He intimidated people. And liberal part of Russians don't do any changes because they are afraid. Have you watched Game of Thrones? Well, Ukraine is like Winterfell. We have to resist and strengthen the Wall so the rest of the world will be safe. But the rest of the world has to help us.
We seek to assist Ukrainian LGBTQ + individuals living in the US and Canada to integrate, adapt, and productively contribute to American society.
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