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Ukraine hosts largest ever gay pride parade

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Participants take part at the Equality March, organized by the LGBT community in Kiev
Participants take part at the Equality March, organized by the LGBT community in Kiev -
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REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
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Thousands took to the streets of Kyiv on Sunday for the largest and most peaceful gay pride parade ever held in Ukraine, despite the presence of hostile protesters.

Crowds of people, many dressed in bright colours, paraded along streets in the centre of the Ukrainian capital, holding up banners saying "Diversity is beautiful", "Human rights = happy country", "No violence - yes rights!".

They were flanked by a thick cordon of police in helmets but there was no sign of violence despite the presence of a few hundred far-right and religious protesters.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a former comedian who took office last month, has promoted a tolerant culture, saying he stands for all people's equality and freedom.

Zelenskiy's office urged the police to prevent violence and guarantee the safety of participants in the March of Equality.

"Ukraine's Constitution states that citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms," said the president's office on its Facebook page on Sunday morning.

"Thank you to the police and other law enforcement agencies for protecting today's Pride event in Kiev," Judith Gough, the British ambassador to Ukraine who joined the march, wrote in a tweet.

She posted pictures of herself and other Western ambassadors who participated in the event.

"We stand with all Ukrainians striving for equality and non-discrimination," William B. Taylor, charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, wrote in a tweet.

Sunday's march was a far cry from violent clashes witnessed at the same event in 2015 but protesters also made their voices heard.

"We are for God and Ukraine... For us it is important that people, who have a sexual sin, do not make propaganda out of it," Oksana Korchynska, a member of the opposition Radical Party which says it promotes family values, told reporters.

The government has increased support for LGBT rights since a Western-backed leadership came to power in 2014, but critics say homophobic attitudes remain widespread.

Almost 47% of Ukrainians think that rights of sexual minorities should be limited, according to a survey published by independent think-tank Democratic Initiatives last December.

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