Ukraine has 'long way to go' on gay rights: Elton John

 British singer Elton John delivers his speech in Kiev.
British singer Elton John delivers his speech in Kiev.REUTERS

KIEV (AFP) - Veteran British rockstar Elton John on Saturday said Ukraine still had "a long way to go" in its treatment of the gay, bisexual and transgender community at a conference in Kiev.

"I tell you with great sadness that right here, in this very city earlier this summer, a simple and modest gay pride parade had to be organised at a secret location to try to prevent hooligans from disrupting it and committing violence against the celebrants," he said.

"The march lasted, in all, 10 minutes, the fighting lasted over an hour... So I tell you soberly, we have a long way to go," he told delegates at the annual Yalta European Strategy forum.

The singer, who has two sons with husband David Furnish and is a veteran campaigner on gay rights, urged Ukraine to seek ways to promote the rights of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT).

"Accepting people regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation is today the measure of an open, tolerant and democratic society," he said.

"I ask you to begin this dialogue," he said.

"This is a moral imperative."

Homosexuality used to be punishable by law under the former Soviet Union, and although the legislation was revised following its collapse, homophobia remains socially acceptable in Ukraine where prevailing social attitudes tend to be intolerant towards those in the LGBT community.

Ukraine held its first Gay Pride parade in 2013 but the following year, it was cancelled after police refused to guarantee it would be protected.

This year, around a hundred activists turned out but they were only able to march briefly through Kiev before clashes erupted with protesters throwing stones and rubbish at them.

Around 10 people were hurt in the ensuing confrontation between police and ultra-nationalist demonstrators who came to break up the event.

Highly popular in Ukraine, Elton John had in 2009 tried to adopt a local HIV-positive toddler but was prevented by the authorities as Ukrainian law does not permit couples in same-sex marriages to adopt.