By Isaac J. Martin
Lviv, Ukraine, Mar 11 (EFE).- In downtown Lviv, western Ukraine, Tymur Levchuk manages a shelter that has become a safe space for 13 gay men who have fled from different cities in the country after Russian troops invaded on February 24.
“All the official shelters are managed by the city council, and they only take in women, children and the elderly. For gays and especially trans people it is difficult,” Levchuk, executive director at Fulcrum UA, one of the few LGTB NGOs in Ukraine, tells Efe.
All men over the age of 18 have been called to go to the frontlines, which is “a big problem” for those who do not “know how to fight” or do not want to go to war, Anton Levdik, Fulcrum’s senior director of program management, adds.
Days before the start of the conflict, the United States sent a letter to the United Nations warning that Russian forces had drawn up a kill-list of Ukrainian citizens. Moscow branded the allegations a “hoax”.
Likely targets included people who oppose the Russian government, including dissidents from Russia and Belarus living in Ukraine, journalists, anti-corruption activists, members of ethnic and religious minorities and the LGBT community.
“If the Putin regime comes to Ukraine, no LGBT organizations will exist and no LGBT rights will exist. It is just a matter of time. The most well-known activists, they will find us and they will kill us,” he says.
Yura Dvizhon, co-founder of Ukraine Pride, tells Efe that he is “sure” that his name is on the list, as he is one of the best-known activists in Ukraine.
But he says he is not afraid: “Since the start of this war, there are different levels of my fear. Today, for example, I am not afraid of Russia and I am ready to fight as much as I can.”
Dvizhon says Ukraine “has changed a lot in the last five years” and has become a refuge for homosexuals and trans people from former Soviet nations, such as Belarus.
Before the Russian invasion, activists were pushing for lawmakers to pass Bill 5488, which addresses legal issues related to LGBT hate crimes.
“I have seen how the situation has improved in the country and that is why I have stayed here,” says Dvizhon, who is hopeful that the anti-discrimination law will be approved once the war is over.
Levchuk and his organization Fulcrum are working to raise funds for a second shelter.
Some donations go towards the Ukrainian Army which has an “LGTB military” group that is defending the nation on the frontlines.
“Of course we need support, more capacity for more shelters to provide basic food, but this is a temporary action that could not help us in the long term. We need international support (…) and first of all, for the Army,” he says.
Levdik says the international community “needs to understand” that it is “time to act.”
“We have to stop Putin. If they don’t start doing something right now, I don’t know what will happen,” he says. EFE