Metro Weekly

Russian LGBTQ activist Yelena Grigoryeva found stabbed and strangled in St. Petersburg

Yelena Grigoryeva was murdered just days after her name appeared on a "gay-hunting" torture-themed website

Yelena Grigoryeva – Photo: Facebook.

A prominent LGBTQ rights activist was murdered in St. Petersburg, Russia, after her name was posted on a “gay-hunting” website based on the torture-themed horror movie Saw.

Yelena Grigoryeva, 41, of St. Petersburg, was found in the bushes near her home, dead from at least eight distinct stab wounds and exhibiting signs of strangulation, according to police.

Investigators placed her time of death between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on July 21, but her body was not found until almost 5 p.m.

Grigoryeva was active with Russia’s Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT for Equality, and had previously protested against Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, the mistreatment of prisoners in Russian jails, and other human rights abuses.

According to the Russian newspaper Fontanka, Grigoryeva was seen in the company of five people, including four men, prior to her death. Police claim the party was seen drinking alcohol on a street bench, and found a bottle near the murder scene.

On Thursday, Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had detained a 38-year-old native of Kyrgyzstan as the main suspect in Grigoryeva’s murder.

The man has not yet been charged, but investigators claim they have evidence to prove her death was the result of a domestic dispute, and that she had been familiar with the suspect, reports The Moscow Times.

Dinar Idrisov, a friend of Grigoryeva’s, wrote on his Facebook page that she had received threats prior to her death, and had filed multiple complaints with police.

She had also gone to police to report a sexual assault, but they never opened an investigation in response to her complaint, reports Fontanka.

“Every person has the right to life. And the state of Russia was obliged to guarantee her the right to life,” Idrisov wrote, adding that law enforcement authorities gave “no noticeable reaction” to Grigoryeva’s complaints.

On July 18, just three days before she was killed, Grigoryeva posted an alert on her own Facebook page warning people that her name had been listed on a “Saw Against LGBT” website, reports NBC News.

In the post, Grigoryeva wrote that the site organizes a “hunt for homosexual, bisexual and transgender people.”

The website, which claims to have been involved in the purge of gays in Chechnya, reportedly posts personal information about LGBTQ individuals, including photos and addresses, and encourages others to post them as well. 

Gay Star News reported back in April that visitors to the site are offered rewards for hunting down LGBTQ people and are told they can do “anything but kill” their prey.

For a fee of 200 rubles ($3 in U.S. currency), people will be able to access names and information of potential victims.

The site also extorts money from people whose names are listed on the site by offering to remove their information — in exchange for a fee of 1,500 rubles ($23 U.S.).

“Law enforcement agencies have still not done anything to find the creators of this ‘game’ and bring them to justice,” Grigoryeva wrote in her Facebook post. She added that the Russian LGBT Network had tried to find the creators of the site, to no avail.

She called on those opposed to the website to contact the Russian prosecutor’s office and the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency.

Svetlana Zakharova, the communications manager for the Russian LGBT Network, confirmed that Grigoryeva’s name had appeared on the “Saw” website prior to her death.

She added that the Russian LGBT Network has repeatedly asked Russian officials to block the site, which they did several times over the past few months, including last week. However, the site keeps reappearing.

Zakharova told NBC News that she’s skeptical police will investigate the “Saw” website or its creators.

“We have this situation in Russia — even when you go to police to file cases, police can refuse to register the case,” she said. “Yes, people are very worried — well I would say that the fact that this website exists for so long with out any reaction from the authorities is very telling; it tells a lot about homophobia in Russians’ institutional levels.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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