Russian authorities have dropped murder charges against one suspect and arrested another in the murder of human and LGBTQ rights activist Yelena Grigoryeva, who was killed during the early morning hours of July 21 in St. Petersburg.
On Aug. 1, the Investigative Committee said that Davron Mukhamedov, a 38-year-old native of Kyrgyzstan who had been arrested in connection with Grigoryeva’s death, is not the person who killed her. However, he helped identify another suspect, who was subsequently arrested on July 31.
According to investigators, Grigoryeva was seen drinking in public on a park bench just steps from her home on July 20 with a group of people that included Mukhamedov. She then met with and drank with the most recent suspect, who the Investigative Committee claims beat her and stabbed her eight times, reports RadioFreeEurope.
The Committee has not released the man’s name, but noted that he is 29 years old and has a previous conviction for drug trafficking.
The Committee said Mukhamedov remains in custody after confessing to an unrelated robbery charge.
Grigoryeva, who was 41 at the time of her death, had previously been involved with Russia’s Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT for Equality, and frequently protested what she saw as human rights abuses by the government, including mistreatment of LGBTQ people, abuse and corruption in Russia’s prison system, and the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Her activism often led to arrests and detentions.
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 website based on the Saw horror movie franchise that encourages people to “hunt” suspected LGBTQ individuals.
The website, “Saw Against LGBT,” 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 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.
If people want their names and personal information removed from the site, they are forced to pay 1,500 rubles ($23 U.S.).
Friends of Grigoryeva previously told the Russian newspaper Fontanka that she had not only complained to St. Petersburg police about the Saw-themed website — which has been blocked multiple times by the government, only to repeatedly re-emerge — but to complain about threats made against her and to report a sexual assault committed against her in the months prior to her death. But they say police did not take her complaints seriously and refused to open an investigation.
It remains unclear whether the most recent suspect accused of Grigoryeva’s murder is connected to the Saw website or if it is mere coincidence that her name was published just days before she was killed.