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Following activist's murder, Russian police open new ‘gay propaganda’ case, while declining to investigate homophobic hate group

Source: Meduza

Anti-extremism police in Moscow say they’re unable to identify the individuals responsible for an online homophobic hate group because Russia’s federal censor has blocked the group's website. The “Solidarity” LGBTQ rights movement first shared the police notice in a VKontakte post on July 31. The official letter, signed by Moscow Interior Ministry Center “E” Acting Director Sergey Savchenko, states that “conducting an inquiry proved to be impossible,” because “all information about possibility illegal activity has been deleted.”

A day later, the Solidarity movement reported that police in Russia’s Stavropol Krai have flagged illegal “gay propaganda” on its VKontakte page and on social-media accounts belonging to Artem Shitukhin, the group’s chairman (who recently found political asylum in the Netherlands, after receiving threats from hate groups). Solidarity acknowledges that it makes its content available to all age groups, and deliberately refuses to comply with Russia’s ban on “nontraditional sexual orientation propaganda in the presence of minors,” stressing that LGBTQ adolescents need community support, as well.

In mid-July, the St. Petersburg LGBTQ rights organization “Vykhod” (Exit) formally asked local police officials to investigate the “Saw Against LGBT” movement for involvement in the murder of LGBTQ rights activist Yelena Grigoryeva, whose body was discovered on July 22. On its website earlier this summer, “Saw” published a list of activists against whom it claimed to be preparing “very dangerous and brutal gifts.” Grigoryeva’s name appeared on the list, which she noted in a Facebook post on July 3. 

Before she was murdered, Yelena Grigoryeva reportedly notified the police that she’d received death threats, though spokespeople for the Interior Ministry told journalists that “not one of her appeals concerned death threats.” Sources in St. Petersburg’s police force told Meduza that investigators suspect no political motive in Grigoryeva’s killing, though her friends strongly believe she was targeted because of her activism.

Since last year, the “Saw Against LGBT” movement has encouraged Russians to assault LGBTQ rights activists, offering honoraria for attacks, according to The movement’s participants threatened gay people in Bashkiria in April 2018, and LGBTQ rights activists in Yekaterinburg in July 2019. On July 17, 2019, the movement’s official website was once again blocked.

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