EuroPride, which celebrates the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in a different European city every year, is set to go ahead in the Latvian capital Riga on Saturday (20 July), despite violent protests last year.

This year’s EuroPride is the first held in a former Soviet country, a sign of how far LGBTI rights have come in Latvia.

In 2005 and 2006, Pride was marred by violence and hostility, as activists marched for their rights in spite of more than a thousand counter-protesters who tried to block the march, released teargas, and threw bags of excrement.

While the organisers say law enforcement authorities have been very cooperative, the Latvian government has failed to endorse the event – when asked about it last year, Latvian President Andris Berzins stated that ‘homosexuality should not be advertised and imposed.’

Lucy Freeman, Director of Amnesty International’s Gender, Sexual and Identity Programme, said: ‘It is disturbing to see the Latvian government’s evident discomfort at hosting EuroPride. Instead of welcoming an event meant to champion openness and tolerance, Latvia’s leaders seem to be turning their backs on it. As the country holding the presidency of the European Union, Latvia should be leading by example in the fight against homophobic discrimination.’

Kaspars Zalitis, a board member of Mozaika, the Latvian group organizing EuroPride 2015, said: ‘The sad fact is the majority of Latvian society is against EuroPride and advancing LGBTI rights remains a struggle: same-sex couples are invisible for the government, homophobic hate crimes are not recognised and high-level politicians employ vicious homophobic rhetoric.’

Despite progress on LGBTI rights in the Baltic states and across Europe, the safety and security of pride marches and freedom of expression in general remains under threat in several other former Soviet countries, where homophobic attacks remain a constant threat. On 6 June, Kiev Pride in Ukraine was marred by homophobic violence which saw 10 protesters and 11 police officers injured. Amnesty said the police did not adequately protect the march.

Only five former Soviet states have passed legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment and only three of them – Georgia, Lithuania and Estonia – have laws on hate crime or incitement to hatred that explicitly include either sexual orientation or gender identity.

Worryingly, Lithuania and Russia have passed laws that restrict the right to freedom of expression of LGBTI activists, when disseminating information and advocating for issues such as equal marriage for same-sex couples. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan retain laws criminalising sex between adult men.