Desperate to prevent the shadow of Vladimir Putin’s sectarian regime from falling over Ukraine, LGBTQ combat volunteers told The Daily Beast that members of the gay community had rushed to prepare for this invasion of the Ukraine in recent weeks.

Now they are ready to retaliate and resist a Russian occupation if Putin’s forces seek to remain on Ukrainian soil.

Veronika Limina, who lives in Lviv in the far west of the country, ran a camp, teaching LGBTQ volunteer cadets basic combat and paramedic skills.

She has enlisted in Lviv’s territorial defense force and says she is ready to join the fighting as Putin’s forces move west across the country.

“I’m angry,” she told The Daily Beast, as the Russians bombed towns and drove tanks deeper into Ukrainian territory. “We are going to kill Putin.”

Limina, who works for an NGO promoting equal rights for LGBT people in the military, says the gay community in Ukraine will resist Russian occupation despite continued discrimination in her country. The alternative is unbearable.

“Either we defend our country, and it will become part of the free world, or there will be no freedom for us and it will no longer be Ukraine at all.

On Sunday, the United States warned that Russia had a “kill list” of Ukrainians to arrest or kill. The list would contain many journalists, LGBTQ+ people, politicians and government officials.

Andrii Kravchuk, who works in LGBTQ Nash Svit Centerin Kyiv, said the impact of Russian homophobia was felt in his hometown in the Donbass region, which he fled after the 2014 invasion.

“We are very aware of the threats we have faced, both as Ukrainians and LGBT+ people. We understand that Russian occupation would mean total anarchy and repressions – we are seeing this right now in the Ukrainian occupied territories of Crimea and Donbass,” he said.

“Now we have only two options: either we defend our country, and it will become part of the free world, or we will have no freedom and will no longer be Ukraine at all.”

Although the war between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for eight years, mostly in the east, it escalated into a full invasion on Thursday morning.

“Many LGBT+ activists, who have experience participating in Euromaidan events, join the Territorial Defense Forces or undergo paramedic training,” Kravchuk said. “LGBT+ people who served in the military and military volunteers are ready to return to service. We do the same as the rest of the nation.

Russia has a history of gross human rights violations. The anti-gay purge in the Russian republic of Chechnya has driven the LGBTQ community underground. Many were detained in the area, while many others fled.

Demonstrators lay roses on a rainbow flag as they protest an alleged crackdown on gay people in Chechnya outside the Russian Embassy in London on June 2, 2017.

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Image

In Donbass, a Russian-backed separatist region in southeastern Ukraine, the LGBTQ community has already seen what would happen if pro-Putin thugs took control. Before the Donbass war, the gay community was flourishing but since 2013, supported by Russia separatists increased homophobic rhetoric in the region. In many cases, the LGBTQ community has been subjected to assault, detention, and violence.

Putin himself has a history of homophobia. In a speech at the annual meeting of the Valdai Chat Club last year he declared ‘gender fluidity’ a ‘crime against humanity’. He also signed a “gay propaganda” law in 2013, which pledged to uphold “traditional values”.

Kravchuk himself fled Lugansk, a region near the Russian-Ukrainian border, in 2014 after bombings began. After escaping, he moved to Kyiv where he lives with his boyfriend. His family stayed at home. While returning from the market in recent days, his brother was captured by the Russian occupation forces and told that he would be forcibly conscripted to defend the pro-Russian “People’s Republic of Luhansk”, despite his artificial knee. Even though his brother may be fighting for the other side – against his will – Kravchuk said he will continue to fight.

On Friday morning, he texted the Daily Beast: “For now we are safe, but no one knows what may happen in a few hours.”

Valery Brown, who identifies as a lesbian, said she also trained to resist Putin’s invasion. Prior to the start of the dispute, she told The Daily Beast, “I try to do my best to be prepared for different outcomes.”

Twenty-four hours into the invasion, she replied, “That’s horrible.”

Not all LGBTQ Ukrainians prepare to fight. Some volunteer to help frontline soldiers and LGBTQ civilians. Viktor Pylypenko, head of the Ukrainian NGO LGBT Soldiers, said many LGBTQ servicemen were already on the front lines and LGBTQ civilians were helping to collect money, equipment, weapons and medical aid for the soldiers of First line.

Ukraine’s LGBTQ community is showing strength and fearlessness even when Russian-backed separatists have already begun bombing, and the Western world is bracing for any possible outcome. Many have nowhere to go – Ukrainians and the LGBTQ community say they will fight to save their country.