July 23 saw several dozen people demonstrate in St Petersburg to mourn the death of Yelena Grigoryeva. The 41 year-old activist had been murdered three days beforehand soon after her identity was circulated online as part of ‘Saw’, a “hit list” threatening the lives of LGBT+ people and reporters.
Yelena Grigoryeva, a member of the St Petersburg-based Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT People for Equal Rights, was a regular protester on a range of issues – such as LGBT+ rights, and freedom for Ukranian political prisoners – to create “a Russia which people will not be scared of, but be inspired by”.
To avoid seeking permission from authorities for a demonstration in honour of Grigoryeva’s life, the rally consisted of “solo” or “solidarity” pickets, whereby individual protesters maintained a set distance between one another.
Still, radical and emotive sentiments were not lost in the process – protester Marina Ken proclaimed that: “Yelena was killed because she was not afraid to tell the truth about the subjects that are traditionally [not spoken of] in Russia and on the country’s state TV channels.”
Furthermore, Svetlana Zakharova of the Russian LGBT Network expressed her “outrage that police haven’t done anything to find the people behind” the ‘Saw’ hit list.
A Facebook post from fellow campaigner Dinar Idrisov described how Grigoryeva’s dead body was found strangled, with multiple stab wounds. It also mentioned that Grigoryeva had received multiple threats previously, online and otherwise.
In contrast to Marina Ken’s statement, any political motivation behind Grigoryeva’s murder is reportedly unclear. Authorities speculate that her death could have been a result of personal conflict, with the arrested suspect – a Kyrgyz national born in 1981 – being an acquaintance to Grigoryeva. Officials have tried to emphasise that Yelena Grigoryeva “lead an asocial lifestyle consuming alcoholic beverages on repeated occasions, including in the company of the suspect”.
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