KYIV -- Thousands of people including diplomats marched peacefully through the Ukrainian capital in an annual gay pride parade that spurred a smaller counterprotest.
Participants carried the rainbow-colored flag that symbolizes the gay movement, Ukrainian flags, as well as signs calling for equal rights as they walked through the center of Kyiv.
About 7,000 people took part in the September 19 demonstration, according to organizers, down from the record high of 8,000 in 2019.
The gay pride parade, launched a decade ago, was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The parade, whose participants included staff from the U.S. and U.K. embassies, was accompanied by a strong police presence. There were no reports of any incidents.
An anti-gay protest held the same day by religious groups and nationalists attracted about 700 people, a reporter for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service estimated.
“We salute law enforcement for ensuring participants' safety,” the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said in a tweet.
Homophobia is widespread in Ukraine, according to a survey by the sociological group "Rating" published in August, which said 47 percent of respondents had a negative view of the gay community.
Kyiv has increased support for LGBT rights since Western-backed leaders came to power in 2014.
Parliament passed legislation in 2015 to ban discrimination in the workplace, but it does not allow for same-sex marriage or adoption of children.