Many LGBTQ Ukrainians say they are ready to stand up to Russia amid attacks against their homeland, as an anticipated invasion into the country began on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war in an early televised address before launching an attack on Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and other major cities in what experts are calling an attempt to return Russia to its sphere of influence dating back to the days of the Soviet Union.

In the lead up to Thursday’s invasion, Amb. Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. office in Geneva, sent a letter to the U.N. human rights chief in Geneva warning Russia has created a “kill list” of Ukrainians to be attacked or detained following an invasion, as reported by The New York Times. The list is said to include LGBTQ Ukrainians, as well as journalists, activists, and ethnic and religious minorities. Russian authorities have denied the existence of such a list, characterizing it as anti-Russian propaganda.

Ukrainian LGBTQ rights activist Taras Karasiichuk told the Washington Blade earlier this week the LGBTQ community wasn’t afraid, and that they would defend Ukraine against Russia aggression.

LGBTQ rights group Kyiv Pride has now taken to Twitter to offer messages of resilience and calm.

“We remain strong, we are not intimidated,” the group tweeted during the early hours of Thursday morning. “Putin will break all his teeth trying to bite us. We have left far behind the past to which he seeks to draw us. We are a country that has chosen the values of human rights, humanity, life and personality. Putin lives in the past, he has a place there.”

“We will never give up, still the victory will be ours. Keep calm, we will win together!” it added in a follow-up tweet.

In an English language tweet, Kyiv Pride encouraged allies around the world to “Call on your governments to stand up and take action against war in Ukraine!”

Later on Thursday morning, Kyiv Pride called on Ukrainians to stay put and only go out if necessary, such as for food or medicine, adding, “Let’s hold on!”

“Ukraine is a European country. We have a 10-year history of Pride marches, and as you know, in Russia, the situation is like opposite,” Edward Reese, project assistant for Kyiv Pride, said in an interview with CBS News. “We have totally different paths. … We see the changes in people’s thoughts about human rights, LGBTQ, feminism and so on. … So definitely we don’t want anything connected to Russia … and we won’t have them.”

While same-sex marriage is not recognized in Ukraine, the country does offer some nondiscrimination protections to the LGBTQ community, such as in housing and employment. LGBTQ rights in Russia are less supported, including a so-called propaganda law passed in 2013 that prevents instructing minors of the existence of same-sex relationships and which has been used to crackdown on Pride demonstrations and other pro-LGBTQ events. In Ukraine, thousands marched in a Pride demonstration in September.

QUA – LGBTQ Ukrainians in America, a group founded to support LGBTQ Ukrainian immigrants in America, is planning a demonstration at The Stonewall Inn in New York City to “denounce Russian aggression towards Ukraine” on Saturday, beginning at 2 pm, and has called on “American and European queer advocacy organizations to use their considerable voices to raise awareness of the threat a Russian invasion poses to queer Ukrainians.

Members of the Scottish Parliament, during debate on LGBT History Month, which occurs in February in the United Kingdom, called for support for LGBTQ people in Ukraine in light of Russian actions.

President Joe Biden has condemned the military actions and imposed another round of economic sanctions, joined by allies Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Japan, to punish Russia for what the White House has called “Putin’s war of choice against Ukraine.”

“This aggression cannot go unanswered,” Biden said on Thursday. “America stands up to bullies. We stand up for freedom.”

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