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Russian human rights and LGBT activist savagely murdered after death threats

Halya Coynash
41-year-old Yelena Grigroryeva, a civic activist who fiercely opposed Russia’s occupation of Crimea and who often took part in pickets protesting against the mounting persecution of Crimean Tatars has been brutally murdered in St. Petersburg

41-year-old Yelena Grigroryeva, a civic activist who fiercely opposed Russia’s occupation of Crimea and who often took part in pickets protesting against the mounting persecution of Crimean Tatars has been brutally murdered in St. Petersburg.  Grigoryeva was also active in defending LGBT rights and it seems that at least some of the threats which she had recently received were because of her links to the LGBT community.

Grigoryeva was reportedly stabbed multiple times and also strangled, with her body left under a tree near to her apartment block.   Her body was only found in the early evening of 21 July, however the investigators believe she was killed between 12 and 16 hours earlier, that is during the night from 20-21 July. In virtually everything except the believed time of the crime, the Investigative Committee’s reports have varied radically.  They also clash on certain crucial details with reports from Grigoryeva’s fellow activists, such as Dinar Idrisov, who first reported her murder on 22 July.

Idrisov called Grigoryeva a civic activist of the democratic, anti-war and LGBT movement, and said that she had recently been the victim of violence and had often received death threats.  He writes that she and her lawyer had turned to the police over both the violence and the threats, but had not received any decent response. “All of it was along the longs of “if you’re being killed, call us””, Idrisov writes, adding that Grigoryeva didn’t have time “to call”.

Idrisov says also that, after the death threats began, Grigoryeva had asked a common acquaintance to look after her cat if she died, and had planned to get her a spare key made.

It was asserted within hours that the culprit had been found, and that this had was a 40-year-old man from Bashkortostan who had had difficulty with paying back loans. Even the name of the sniffer dog who was supposed to have tracked down this man was named.  The suspicion did arise and lingers that the Investigative Committee was very eager to conclude that the crime had been solved and that it had had nothing to do with Grigoryeva’s active civic position and / or her sexual orientation.

By Monday evening, the Investigative Committee was still suggesting that its priority version was that this was some kind of domestic crime, but did acknowledge the possibility that the activist had been killed by several people. reports that Grigoryeva had been seen “shortly before her death” in the company of a female friend and four men, and that they had been drinking, with a bottle supposedly found at the scene of the crime. . The 40-year-old who had earlier been detained was now identified as having been one of the people with Grigoryeva earlier, with the investigators saying that they had no grounds for suspecting him of her murder. goes on to say, presumably quoting the investigators or police, that there is no confirmation of the activist having received many threats.  It is claimed that over the last year, she had only once lodged a report of a sexual crime having been committed against here, with the Investigative Committee having refused to initiate criminal proceedings.

Judging both by the Fontanka report and by the numerous comments on social media, Grigoryeva’s friends and other activists believe the motive is more likely to lie in her activism and / or her part in the LGBT movement.  She was reportedly on a ‘hit list’ of a so-called ‘project’ entitled ‘Saw against LGBT’.  The latter had announced on 1 July the opening of a new ‘season’ and said that they “have prepared dangerous and brutal presents which we will soon give”  One of the other targets on the hit list, the LGBT Resource Centre in Yekaterinburg reported that they had received an email signed by ‘Saw against LGBT’ on 16 July. The letter had demanded that the resource centre close by 1 August and transfer any funds to a named charity.  If not, the letter threatened that a bomb would be sent via a firm delivering food.

Another person on the list, Igor Kochetkov, had reported a death threat to the police in January 2019 after a person from Grozny in Chechnya, Ali Baskhanov posted a video with threats against Kochetkov and insults.

In January there was also an announcement in the Internet that people prepared to hunt gays were being sought, with it claimed that there was a network in 12 regions of Russia. These so-called ‘Gayhunters’ announced that the network was being extended and spoke of the opportunity of earning up to 300 thousand roubles (a fairly substantial amount).

Further grounds for seriously doubting attempts to see only a ‘domestic conflict’ motive for the savage killing of Yelena Grigoryeva can be found in comments like this foul hate speech by an individual who calls himself ‘BULATov Timur, civic activist of the RF.  It calls the murdered woman “an animal’ and a “whore’ and says that she “was killed with a knife like an animal”.  It goes on to say that “the world has become one [offensive words describing a lesbian and person with liberal views] ‘cleaner’.  The text is too foul to post here, but is in full view on the social media  network VKontakte.  This is worth remembering, as the FSB has on many occasions prosecuted Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians in Crimea, and doubtless Russians for entirely innocuous posts or reposts on VKontakte. 

In his post about Grigoryeva’s death, Idrisov reported that another civic activist Konstantin Sinitsyn had been killed in very strange circumstances on 26 January 2018.  He suggests that the neighbour who was convicted of his murder is probably innocent. 

Earlier, on 27 December 2017, there was an attempt on the life of civic activist Vladimir Ivanyutenko.  The latter is now imprisoned effectively of charges of planning to kill Yevgeny Prigozhin, the man known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chef.  Prigozhin is a convicted criminal who later made billions through his link with Putin and who is now under international sanctions for his funding of the Wagner unit mercenaries waging Russia’s undeclared wars in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere, and of the Internet troll factory in St. Petersburg.  Idrisov writes that Ivanyutenko miraculously survived multiple knife injuries, “but could not avoid provocation and a fabricated criminal prosecution”.

In one of numerous photos of Yelena Grigoryeva on pickets in defence of victims of persecution, she can be seen with a placard defending Ivanyutenko. 

There was tragically no miracle when she was set upon and stabbed at least eight times.

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