Homophobic attack overshadows Euro 2012 soccer tournament

Video of homophobic thugs beating Svyatoslav Sheremet has many calling foul on Kiev.
Unidentified people beat Svyatoslav Sheremet
Anatolii Stepanov/Reuters

What was once billed as Ukraine’s coming-out party is shaping up to be anything but. Video of homophobic thugs beating the country’s leading gay activist went viral last week as the former Soviet bloc country prepared to host the Euro 2012 soccer tournament starting June 8.

The attack on Svyatoslav Sheremet came just after Kiev’s first-ever gay pride parade was stopped amid fears of assaults by far-right thugs, and prompted Amnesty International to warn gay football fans they might face danger at Euro.

Meantime, relatives of black British soccer star Theo Walcott cancelled plans to attend because they fear racist attacks, noting that Ukrainian police themselves are known to brutalize members of ethnic minorities. And the bad press comes as several eurozone leaders threaten to boycott the event over the imprisonment of opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, who has allegedly been beaten by prison guards. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych scoffed this week at the criticism.

But Walcott’s brother Ashley took to Twitter with a question on the minds of many: “Why hold a competition of this magnitude in a place that cannot police itself [well enough] for foreigners of any creed to feel safe?”