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KYIV -- Thousands of supporters of LGBT rights have marched in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv under a heavy police presence.

They marched in the center of the capital on June 23 while waving rainbow and Ukrainian flags as thousands of police and National Guard troops stood by to ensure order.

Organizers of the "March of Equality" said about 8,000 people took part in the event.

Several Western diplomats also attended the rally.

​Organizers said they had invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to join the parade.

"Unfortunately, there was no reaction from the president," Ruslana Panukhnyk, director of the NGO KyivPride that organizes the parade, told the AFP news agency.

Opponents held up antigay banners and shouted "Shame" as the procession began.

Protesters Try To Block Ukrainian LGBT Parade
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Police said that nine people were arrested on suspicion of preparing provocations against participants in the Kyiv Pride event.

Organizers have said that their goal is to promote "full respect" for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

The Pride parade has been held in Kyiv since 2016 amid protests by opponents, including right-wing activists and representatives of religious organizations.

Attacks and harassment against gays and other minorities are fairly common in Ukraine.

Last year, activists for transgender rights were forced to disband a demonstration in Kyiv after counterdemonstrators assaulted several protesters and attacked a Canadian journalist trying to cover the event.

With reporting by AP and Current Time
Aiman Omarova, a lawyer for the Volunteers of the Fatherland group said that the Kazakh Justice Ministry has refused to register the organization four times.

NUR-SULTAN -- A group that defends the rights of ethnic Kazakhs in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang says it will sue Kazakhstan's Justice Ministry for repeatedly refusing to register the nongovernmental organization.

Erbol Dauletbek, a representative of the Atazhurt Eriktileri (Volunteers of the Fatherland) group, and the group's lawyer Aiman Omarova said on June 21 that the ministry has refused to register the organization four times.

They say that each time the group has tried to register, the ministry has cited technicalities and errors in the application documents submitted.

Omarova called those justifications "baseless," and said all of the application documents were filled out and prepared properly in two languages, Kazakh and Russian, in accordance with Kazakhstan's laws and regulations.

The group's leader, Serikzhan Bilash, has been under house arrest since March on charges of inciting ethnic discord after his organization staged several gatherings of ethnic Kazakhs from Xinjiang who have settled in Kazakhstan and complain that their relatives are being held in what the Chinese government calls "reeducation camps."

Bilash was born in Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan, and is a naturalized Kazakh citizen.

In February, an Almaty court found Bilash guilty of being the leader of an unregistered organization and fined him the equivalent of $670.

Atazhurt Eriktileri has been operating in Kazakhstan since 2017 without registration.

Bilash said in February that his group would continue to defend the rights of ethnic Kazakhs in Xinjiang, and vowed to try again to register the group at the Justice Ministry.

The United Nations said last August that an estimated 1 million ethnic Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim indigenous people of Xinjiang were being held in what it described as "counterextremism centers" in northwestern China..

The UN also said millions more had been forced into internment camps.

China says that the facilities are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism and allowing them to be reintegrated into society.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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