A television station in Ukraine has been forced to apologize after complaints that a New Year’s Eve skit mocked LGBT people.
On Friday, protestors demonstrated outside 1+1 TV station in Kiev, claiming the December 31 episode of The Evening Quarter was homophobic and transphobic.
The controversial scene depicted Buratino, the Russian version of Pinocchio, declaring he identified as a girl and wanted to be addressed as “Buratina.”
According to Radio Free Europe, during the sketch:
The name Buratino is also scrambled to spell a Russian profanity for sexual intercourse, and a well-known song from Buratino is altered to closely echo a Russian derogatory term for a homosexual. The skit also mocks the rainbow flag of the LGBT community and the letters L, G, B, and T.
The sketch also shows Buratina being rejected by its dog and father, and insinuates that the character is likely to commit suicide.
After viewers accused the show of homophobia and incitement to hatred on social media, 1+1 apologized and announced it had scrubbed the skit from its website and archives.
“There have been, in our opinion, episodes that could have led to accusations of disrespect for sexual minorities,” it said in a statement. “We apologize for this episode and had no intention of offending anyone. We… will continue to focus more carefully on the choices, character and approaches in coverage of topics that affect the respect and interests of sexual minorities.”
The channel also said it was working on a platform to discuss issues regarding sexual minorities with other media groups.
Activists have demanded an apology from Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose troupe performed the “Buratino” skit. Zelenskiy, whose name has been floated as a potential presidential candidate, has yet to respond but the Ukraine’s National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting announced it has launched own investigation.