Ukraine transgender rally disrupted by far-right militants

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Paramedics rinsing the eyes of activistsImage source, EPA
Image caption,
Photographs showed activists having their eyes rinsed after being tear-gassed

Far-right militants in Ukraine have disrupted a march by transgender activists in the capital Kiev.

Reports say two young women were attacked and mocked as they received medical attention, and a Canadian journalist was punched in the face.

Another reporter says police officers manhandled the activists and did nothing to stop the violent far-right members. They deny the charge.

Homophobia is still commonplace in post-Soviet Ukraine, analysts say.

However, the authorities have allowed gay pride marches to take place in the past.

About 30-40 people turned up for Sunday's rally, holding rainbow flags and banners that said, "Transphobia must be stopped".

One activist taking part said the march was important to demonstrate that LGBT people exist in the country, Reuters reports.

"It is difficult to accept that some people are ready to resort to violence simply because other people are slightly different," the activist, identified only as Elis, said in Russian.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Far-right activists threw smoke bombs into the crowd, reporters said

Christopher Miller, an American journalist who was at the scene, said the marchers originally ran into difficulty after counter-demonstrators occupied their planned protest area at Kiev's Shevchenko Park, then followed them to a re-arranged point.

The far-right protesters then interrupted the demonstration by allegedly throwing smoke bombs, before police began dispersing the group.

Mr Miller shared a video on social media that showed police appearing to push the activists into an underground station as homophobic slurs are shouted in Ukrainian.

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The journalist says police tried to pull him away from the group, despite him showing his press credentials.

Another journalist, Michael Colborne, was punched in the face and two female protesters were then assaulted using pepper-spray in the aftermath as the group dispersed.

Organisers later said the events had demonstrated that "the level of far-right radical aggression and violence is increasing in Ukraine".

Mr Colborne said police had opened an investigation into his case.

Canada's Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk urged the government to reassert its commitment to media protection.