A Russian gang that draws on imagery derived from the Saw horror franchise is allegedly threatening to murder LGBTQ people in five European cities.
So-called Knife International was purportedly behind a website, “Saw Against LGBT,” which featured the character Jigsaw from the Saw films and listed the names of prominent LGBTQ activists in Russia.
The website offered access to names and information of potential victims, and offered rewards to users for hunting down LGBTQ people and doing “anything but kill” to their prey.
However, LGBTQ rights activist Yelena Grigoryeva was murdered in St Petersburg in July last year just days after she shared information about the website and noted that her name was listed on it.
Read more: Russian LGBTQ activist Yelena Grigoryeva found stabbed and strangled in St. Petersburg
British tabloid The Sun reported this week that, though the website has been taken down, Knife International has continued to threaten LGBTQ activists in Russia.
In addition to death threats, the group also claims to have established proxy networks in major European cities as part of a coordinated attack against LGBTQ people.
Svetlana Zakharova, a St Petersburg resident who works for the Russian LGBT Network, told The Sun that she had received five threats so far this year, and that those targeting her claim to be supported by the Russian government.
“In the emails, they say things like ‘you will be next,” she said. “The people behind these threats try to claim they have the support of the government. ‘We are the power and you will be next’, is the kind of language they use.”
Zakharova said that the group’s last threat revealed plans for attacks in the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Ukraine.
“A project of our like-minded people from Europe under the name ‘Knife International’ starts,” an email sent to Zakharova states.
“At the moment, the project will be based in five cities, these are Warsaw (Poland), Ostrava (Czech Republic), Berlin (Germany), Kharkov (Ukraine) and Arnhem (Netherlands) with further expansion throughout most of Europe.”
The group said its main purpose would be “the regulation of LGBT activism in Europe.”
The “Saw Against LGBT” website had previously touted connections to Chechnya’s purge of LGBTQ people, which has seen LGBTQ individuals be detained, tortured, and even killed in the Russian territory.
While a man was arrested for the murder of Grigoryeva, LGBTQ activists claimed that he was a political scapegoat, Radio Free Europe reported last year.
Grigoryeva was outspoken against the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has encouraged anti-LGBTQ sentiments in the country, including the recent passing of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and a law banning gay “propaganda.”
“I think it’s immediately clear that this was a contract killing,” Aleksandr Khmelev, a friend of Grigoryeva’s, told RFE. “We’ve had them before.”
Prior to her death, Grigoryeva had told St. Petersburg police about the Saw-themed website. She had also complained about threats made against her and to report a sexual assault committed in the months prior to her death.
However, police reportedly did not take her complaints seriously and refused to open an investigation.
In a Facebook post prior to her death, Grigoryeva wrote that law eforcement agencies “have still not done anything to find the creators of this ‘game’ and bring them to justice.” She added that the Russian LGBT Network had tried to find the creators of the site, to no avail.
At the time of the “Saw Against LGBT” website’s existence, it contained personal information about LGBTQ individuals, including photos and addresses, and offered access to that information for a fee of 200 rubles (around $3).
It also extorted money from those whose information was contained on the website, offering to remove any data in exchange for a fee of 1,500 rubles (around $21).
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