Yelena Grigoryeva, 41, a prominent LGBTQ activist in Russia, was killed last weekend in St. Petersburg after her name and identifying details appeared on a website encouraging people to “hunt” LGBTQ activists, which was reportedly inspired by the torture porn franchise Saw.
According to the Russian publication Fontanka, Grigoryeva’s body was found by a passerby in the bushes in the city of St. Petersburg around 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 21st. The time of death was estimated by authorities as at least 12 hours before she was found. She had been stabbed multiple times.
A suspect referred to as a “40-year-old resident of Bashkortostan,” a republic of Russia, was arrested and taken into custody shortly thereafter. Fontanka notes that the suspect had financial issues, and makes brief mention of Grigoryeva’s career as an activist for LGBTQ rights and political prisoners.
Grigoryeva had received multiple death threats prior to her murder, according to a Facebook post by fellow activist Dinar Idrisov. Idrisov’s post noted that Grigoryeva and her lawyer had “appealed to law enforcement agencies both on the fact of violence and on the fact of threats, but there was no noticeable reaction.”
One of the threats reportedly came from a website that posted “photos and addresses” of LGBTQ activists and offered a reward to those who successfully carried out attacks against them, according to a chilling post from the Russian LGBTQ Network Facebook page dating from July 18th, a mere three days before Grigoryeva’s body was found.
“Law enforcement agencies have still not done anything to find the creators of this ‘game’ and bring them to justice,” the post said, urging LGBTQ activists to report the website to Russia’s Federal Security Service.
Svetlana Zakharova, a board member and an administrator for the Russian LGBTQ Network, confirmed this to NBC News, saying the website had been blocked numerous times, but always popped up again in various incarnations. Zakharova also said that Grigoryeva’s name had only recently been added to a list of LGBTQ activists on the site.
“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,” she told NBC News.
Although homosexuality was officially decriminalized in Russia in 1993, the country has a long history of homophobia and persecution of LGBTQ people. In 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin passed a law prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors,” which has been used to justify the arrest of LGBTQ activists and imposing fines on people who post material perceived as pro-gay rights in the media.
Vera Vinson contributed reporting to this story.