LGBTQ activists in Ukraine claim to have fought and captured a group of Russian soldiers.
According to Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, the soldiers –described as being AWOL, or absent without leave — sought shelter in a basement in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Sunday.
The basement, prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was used as a community center for LGBTQ people in the city, according to LGBTQ activist Viktor Pilipanko.
LGBTQ people visiting the center discovered the soldiers, and allegedly proceeded to attack the Russians before taking them captive.
“This is our war, the Ukrainians, but we have also been fighting as LGBTQ people, and I’m sure that the comrades in Kharkiv understood that,” Pilipanko told Israel Hayom. “We are confronting a tyrannical, homophobic enemy.”
LGBTQ people living in Ukraine have spoken out about their fears should Russian President Vladimir Putin succeed in his invasion of Ukraine.
Under Putin, Russia has become increasingly hostile towards LGBTQ rights, including banning same-sex marriage and in 2013 passing the infamous “gay propaganda” ban, which prohibits showing “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minors.
Russia overpowering Ukraine and installing a pro-Russian puppet government would “mean a direct threat to me and especially, well, to me and to the person I love,” Ilulia, an 18-year-old law student from the city of Kharkiv, in the country’s eastern region, told CBS News last week.
“Ukraine is a European country,” Edward Reese, a project assistant for Kyiv Pride, told CBS News. “We have a 10-year history of Pride marches, and as you know, in Russia, the situation is like opposite.”
Prior to the invasion, Lenny Emson, director of Kyiv Pride, told PinkNews that the country’s LGBTQ population was “ready to fight.”
“We love our country,” he said. “We fight every day for freedom, for freedom without Russia, and for queer people in Ukraine. The fight against Russia and the fight for freedom have a lot in common.”
Last week, the United States sent a letter to the United Nations warning that Russia had created a “kill list” of Ukrainians that should be attacked or arrested — a list that reportedly includes LGBTQ people.
Kharkiv, where the Russian soldiers were allegedly captured, is home to 1.5 million people and has endured multiple strikes from Russian missiles since the invasion began last week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the missile strike, which was captured on CCTV, as a “war crime and a conscious destruction of people.”
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