KIEV — Progovernment demonstrators deployed a new tactic Friday to counter protests in favor of European integration, marching through the capital, Kiev, to oppose homosexuality, which they said would accompany a greater European Union role in Ukrainian affairs.
Carrying religious icons and singing hymns, the group of about 1,000 Orthodox Christian supporters of President Viktor Yanukovych filed out of a monastery and marched to a city park.
Marchers said they favored allegiance to Russia rather than Europe because Russia more closely matches the cultural and religious heritage of Ukraine, which was once part of the Soviet Union.
They intend to draw attention to what they characterize as overly liberal European social values, they said.
The protesters set off from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a monastery controlled by the Moscow Patriarchate, which is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church and is one of three denominations of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine.
The Kyivan Patriarchate of Ukraine, in contrast, has supported the pro-European demonstrators and has allowed many to sleep in churches.
“We are for unity with our brothers in Russia and Belarus,” said Nadezhda A. Kiselyova, 60, a retiree walking in the anti-Europe march Friday, who had an Orthodox icon pinned to the front of her coat.
“We are against the spiritual expansion of the West,” said another protester, Andrei A. Shyropov, a teacher. “We are against the Euro Sodom,” he continued, using a phrase rhyming with and mocking the name the supporters of European integration have given to their movement, the Euromaidan, which means “Eurosquare” in Ukrainian.
Since Yanukovych declined to sign a far-reaching political and free-trade agreement with the EU on Nov. 21, angry Ukrainians have taken to the streets and occupied government buildings, clamoring for the president’s resignation.
It was unclear whether highlighting the divisive issue of homosexuality would gain traction or whether the effort to paint Europe as atheist and degenerate would matter much in a crisis that has been first and foremost about trade and political governance.
Also, the number of progovernment demonstrators was tiny compared with the tens of thousands of pro-Europe Ukrainians who have protested almost daily for two weeks.
Valentin B. Lukyanik, an organizer of the march Friday, said the economic benefits of European trade were outweighed by “the expansion of European values that destroy the family.”
In neighboring Russia, state-controlled television, which can also be viewed in parts of Ukraine, has put the spotlight on European liberalism in the context of the Ukraine crisis by broadcasting clips of a Swedish television show intended to explain bodily functions to children.
After showing excerpts, the Russian host, Dmitri Kiselev, said the show explained why “early sex is the norm” in Sweden, and then concluded, “There you have European values in all their glory.”