Above: An activist holds a placard with a portrait of LGBTQ rights activist Yelena Grigoryeva during a protest demanding justice, near the Russian embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 24.
A Russian activist has been killed after appearing on a website offering rewards for anyone willing to kidnap and torture members of the LGBTQ community.
Yelena Grigoryeva, 41, came out as bisexual in January of this year, according to The Independent. Just seven months later, on Sunday night, her body was discovered in bushes near her home in St Petersburg. She suffered eight stab wounds, to the face and back, and had been strangled. Police arrested and released a 40-year-old man in connection with the murder.
Grigoryeva had written a Facebook post about the website, named after the movie Saw, which went live in April 2018 and encouraged “gay hunters” to participate in “Chechnya’s Comeback,” a reference to the kidnapping, torture, and murder of LGBTQ people in the semi-autonomous federal subject of Russia.
She said the site had been shut down on a number of occasions but had always come back online, and noted it had posted the personal data of “presumably LGBT+” activists, “including photos and addresses,” according to NBC News.
“Law enforcement agencies have still not done anything to find the creators of this ‘game’ and bring them to justice,” Grigoryeva wrote.
Prior to her death, she had been the subject of threats, which The Independent said it saw evidence of, including one containing “disturbing images of two sharp daggers and homophobic language.” Her friends have said she reported this and other threats but that the police did not take it seriously. Police have denied seeing these threats, and while they admit she was targeted, they attempted to downplay it, calling it a domestic situation unrelated to her activism.
“Activists always face certain dangers,” said Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian LGBT Network, who was also named on the threatening site. “Murder is certainly exceptional, but the threats come almost daily. Authorities ignore the sites and social media groups that distribute those threats and lists.”
“This tragedy is yet another painful episode in the ongoing plague of anti-LGBTQ violence and atrocities that have been taking place in Russia and the region,” Jay Gilliam, global director of the Human Rights Campaign, told The Washington Post.
“Those same authorities and leaders have an obligation to protect those targeted because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and their allies. Leaders must also publicly condemn this atrocity and uphold the human rights of LGBTQ people.”
Activists have taken to the streets to call for answers and justice for Grigoryeva.
“Yelena was killed because she was not afraid to tell the truth about the subjects that are traditionally silent in Russia and on the country’s state TV channels,” demonstrator Marina Ken told the Associated Press.
Police have not yet said if they will investigate the murder as a hate crime.