Yelena Grigoryeva

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Yelena 'Lena' Grigoryeva[1] (1977/1978 – July 21, 2019) was a human rights and LGBTQ rights activist. She also opposed the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.[2][3][4] She was murdered in St. Petersburg, Russia on 21 July 2019, when she was stabbed and strangled to death by unknown assailants, her body being found near her home.[4] Grigoryeva's identifying information had appeared in July on a website created by a group calling themselves ‘Saw’ after the American horror film franchise. The group encouraged readers to hunt and murder a list of LGBTQ+ people. Saw's website was blocked in Russia but a new list of LGBTQ+ activists, journalists and citizens is circulating on social media apps and messaging apps in the country, still encouraging others to murder LGBTQ+ people in Russia.[citation needed]

Grigoryeva had protested publicly in support of the Khachaturian sisters not long before her death. She also participated in anti-war and pro-democracy demonstrations,[3] and had protested for the release of Crimean Tatars accused of terrorism, against Russia's military activities in Ukraine, and against domestic violence.[1]

Death threats[edit]

Grigoryeva had received numerous online and offline death threats in the week before her death, intensifying after her name was listed on the Saw-inspired website Пила. Authorities quickly dismissed the allegations of a hate crime, describing Grigoryeva as an alcoholic with an "antisocial lifestyle" and ascribing her death to a drunken dispute with an acquaintance, 28-year-old Aleksei Volnyanko,[5] who confessed on August 2, two days after his arrest.[1]

However, lawyers on the case, fellow LGBT activists, and friends of Grigoryeva expressed doubt, having never heard of Volnyanko and suspecting him to be a scapegoat. They suspected a political killing, as Grigoryeva had fiercely criticized President Vladimir Putin, and her name had been published by Saw days before her murder. Saw, which had emerged in Ufa in April 2018, had previously announced online a game called Saw: A Hunt for Gays in Ufa. A number of attacks against LGBT activists in Bashkortostan followed. They then created a website calling for a nationwide campaign against homosexuals, which published names, addresses, and contact details of alleged homosexuals across Russia and demanded payment in digital currency as ransom for those to be captured. Though the website was blocked in the spring 2019, a successor named 19 people, including Grigoryeva, who commented on Facebook about her own inclusion.[1]

LGBT activists unsuccessfully appealed Russian law enforcement authorities to investigate Saw. Like investigators, state media dismissed Saw as a stunt by LGBT activists seeking asylum abroad while describing Grigoryeva as an alcoholic. The LGBT community is often portrayed by officials and state media as a product of western decadence and a dangerous cult. (See LGBT rights in Russia.)[1] Notably, Russia criminalized "gay propaganda" in 2013.[6]

In the meantime Saw, or imitators, continued to operate privately. Threats have continued via email, such as to Vitaly Bespalov, editor of an LGBT-friendly website and a friend of Grigoryeva.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Luxmoore, Matthew (September 18, 2019). "A Grim Death, A Confession -- But No Closure In Russian LGBT Activist's Killing". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. St. Petersburg, Russia. Archived from the original on 19 September 2019. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  2. ^ "Prominent LGBT activist murdered in Russia". BBC. 2019-07-23. Archived from the original on 30 July 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  3. ^ a b Ingber, Sasha (July 23, 2019). "Russian LGBT Activist Is Found Dead; Friends Say She Was Threatened". Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  4. ^ a b Fitzsimons, Tim (July 23, 2019). "Russian LGBTQ activist is killed after being listed on gay-hunting website". NBC News. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  5. ^ Donohoe, Katie (2019-09-20). "Man 'confesses' to murder of LGBT+ activist Yelena Grigoryeva, but Russia's LGBT+ community are not convinced". Gay Community News. Archived from the original on 7 November 2019. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  6. ^ Sosin, Kate (July 29, 2019). "Queer Activists Are Being Brutally "Hunted" and Murdered in Russia". Archived from the original on 28 August 2019. Retrieved 2021-03-24.

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