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Russian LGBT Activist Is Found Dead; Friends Say She Was Threatened

Yelena Grigoryeva was found near her home in St. Petersburg on Sunday, with multiple stab wounds and signs of strangulation, activists said on social media.
Anton Vaganov/Reuters
Yelena Grigoryeva was found near her home in St. Petersburg on Sunday, with multiple stab wounds and signs of strangulation, activists said on social media.

A woman in Russia who was known for defending LGBT rights has been killed in St. Petersburg, according to activists and media reports that cite government statements about the death of Yelena Grigoryeva.

On Grigoryeva's Facebook page, supporters are posting messages that mourn her death and celebrate her life. Her last profile picture, shared just days before she died, shows Grigoryeva standing in the street, in sneakers, holding a poster in support of three Russian teenage sisters who killed their father after enduring years of physical and sexual abuse.

Grigoryeva did not just protest for LGBT people to have equal rights. She also participated in anti-war and pro-democracy demonstrations and opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea.

On Sunday, her body was discovered in the bushes near her home; Grigoryeva had been stabbed multiple times, according to Russian news website Fontanka. Authorities have reportedly arrested a 40-year-old man from Bashkortostan, in western Russia, as a suspect in her death.

Grigoryeva often received death threats, an activist named Dinar Idrisov wrote on Facebook. He said she had recently "been a victim of violence" and was "regularly threatened with murder."

She was also listed on a homophobic website that directed visitors to hunt down homosexual, bisexual and transgender people, Idrisov and local photojournalist George Markov said.

Russia blocked the website last week.

Before her death, Grigoryeva had filed multiple reports with the police but "none of them concerned possible threats to her life," said the Russian Interior Ministry in the region, in a statement cited by the Interfax news agency. "The reports concerned various domestic conflicts involving the victims' acquaintances," the ministry said, adding that the police reviewed them according to legal procedures.

A criminal case was opened on Monday, Interfax reported, but it's unclear whether investigators will pursue Grigoryeva's death as a hate crime.

Russia outlawed "gay propaganda" in 2013, intensifying hostility toward the LGBT community. A Human Rights Watchreport that was published the following year found an increase in cases in which people described being threatened, harassed, attacked and abducted because of their sexuality and/or gender identity. Since then, reports have continued of LGBT people being detained and tortured in Russia.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sasha Ingber is a reporter on NPR's breaking news desk, where she covers national and international affairs of the day.
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