Man ‘confesses’ to murder of Russian LGBT activist Yelena Grigoryeva – but her loved ones aren’t convinced
The friends of Yelena Grigoryeva, who was murdered in July, are reportedly in doubt over whether a supposed confession from an arrested suspect is genuine.
Grigoryev was found dead in a street near her apartment in St Petersburg earlier this year.
She was reportedly stabbed at least eight times and had strangulation marks on her neck.
According to the Russian LGBT Network, Grigoryeva had received multiple death threats both online and in person in the lead-up to her death.
Friends of Yelena Grigoryeva reportedly doubt ‘official’ confession.
However, Russian authorities allegedly dismissed suggestions that the murder was hate-motivated, instead claiming that she was stabbed in a drunken argument.
Later in July, Russian police arrested three suspects over the death.
Then, on August 2, Russia’s Investigative Committee released a grainy video purportedly showing one of the suspects – a 28-year-old man called Aleksei Volnyank – confessing to the crime.
“She insulted me too much,” he says in the video. “And I, being in a state of alcoholic inebriation, lost my temper.”
But friends of Volnyank have now come forward to speak out over the alleged confession, expressing their belief that it may have been staged given the Russian authorities’ hostility to LGBT+ people.
Russian authorities claim Yelena Grigoryeva killed in drunken dispute.
According to government-funded US news site RFE/RL, friends, fellow LGBT+ activists, and lawyers have all expressed doubts over the official confession.
“I think it’s immediately clear that this was a contract killing,” Aleksandr Khmelev, a friend of Grigoryeva’s, told the publication. “We’ve had them before.”
Another friend said that threats against Grigoryeva increased when she came out as bisexual in 2019.
“Her coming out was a surprise to me, and I didn’t approve of it,” Olga Smirnova, also an activist, told RFE/RL.
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“I told her, ‘Listen, Lena, you already have a target painted on you because of your political activity. You’ve just pinned another to your chest.”
I think it’s immediately clear that this was a contract killing.
Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that acquaintances of Grigoryeva said her name was on a list of LGBT+ activists published by a Russian website that called on people to take vigilante action against them.
Russia’s internet watchdog banned the website in July, which was designed to help users to hunt and torture Russian gay people.
The site, which was online for more than a year, encouraged users to upload the details of LGBT+ people, including their photos and addresses.
The name of the operation, “Chechnya’s comeback”, is a reference to the anti-LGBT “purge” in Chechnya.
The website charged fees for users to get access to the information to “play the game” and extorted those whose details were online, who would have to pay to have their information removed.
According to the Russian LGBT Network: “A homophobic group began to operate in Russia, organising the hunt for homosexual, bisexual and transgender people, in the spring of 2018.”