How Putin Inadvertently Boosted Support for LGBT Rights in Ukraine

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04/21/2023

When Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, he framed the move in part as a means of defending traditional values from Western attitudes “that are directly leading to degradation and degeneration, because they are contrary to human nature.” The Russian president was referencing in particular Western countries’ acceptance and legal recognition of LGBT people—a subject that he has long weaponized as a means of undermining liberal democracy and portraying himself as a true defender of conservative social and religious values. By justifying the war in this way, Putin had perhaps hoped to galvanize support for it among Ukraine’s conservative and religious populations. In practice, however, he may have achieved just the opposite. Since the war began, Ukrainian society has seen a sharp increase in support for the country’s LGBT community and, in particular, for the queer soldiers serving in the military. Calls for LGBT people to have access to civil partnerships have grown. For some, homophobia has become almost synonymous with Russian aggression.

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