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Ukraine transgender rights rally attacked by far-right radicals

Far-right radicals attacked a rally for transgender rights in Ukraine’s capital on Sunday leaving at least three people injured, including a Canadian journalist who was covering the demonstration.

At least 3 injured, including Canadian journalist who was punched in the face, local media reported

A demonstrator gets help washing out pepper spray during a rally for transgender rights in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Nov. 18. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Far-right radicals attacked a rally for transgender rights in Ukraine's capital on Sunday leaving at least three people injured, including a Canadian journalist who was covering the demonstration.

A crowd of more than 50 people had gathered to mark the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance which is observed on Nov. 20 when they were attacked, the Kyiv Post newspaper reported.

"Radicals started moving towards LGBT people, so the police started to physically shove us into the metro and told everybody that the rally has ended," Sofiia Lapina, a member of KyivPride who attended the rally told the newspaper.

Two women were pepper strayed and an international journalist, Canadian freelance reporter Michael Colbourne, was assaulted, Lapina said.

On Twitter, Colbourne said the attack which led to cuts on his face and a fat lip is "further proof that this country has a huge far-right problem."

Ukrainian police said in a statement that they prevented a "provocation" during the demonstration by separating LGBT activists from far-right counter-protesters.

The attack underscores the power of the far-right in former Soviet states and other parts of Europe, analysts said.  

"Spirituality of our country is a priority. If there is no spirituality, then Ukraine will collapse completely … These are our beliefs," Anatolity Polyukhovych, an opponent of transgender rights, told Reuters.

He said counter-protesters rallied to "talk to these transgender people" to convince them not to demonstrate. "If they will still do so, we call on people to stop it physically."

Ukraine's government has increased support for LGBT rights since a Western-backed leadership came to power in 2014, but critics say homophobic attitudes remain relatively widespread, Reuters reported in June following an attempt by far-right groups to block a gay pride march.

"Criminal and hateful actions by far-right radicals deserve an effective and dissuasive policing response," Canada's ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuck said on Twitter. Ukrainian police, he added, "need to reassert commitment to media protection and human rights for all."

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