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On March 31, Saint Petersburg police found Russian journalist and theater critic Dmitry Tsilikin dead in his apartment in a pool of blood. Police said the attacker - a young man Tsilikin had invited to his apartment - stabbed him a dozen times with a hunter’s knife two days earlier and left him to bleed slowly to death. His assailant, a 21-year old Hitler admirer, who goes by the nickname, "The Cleaner," was arrested a week later.

Dmitry Tsilikin.  © 2014 Dmitry Tsilikin/VK

Tsilikin's friends presumed he was gay but Tsilikin wasn’t public about his sexual orientation and didn’t participate in pro-LGBT events. The attacker reportedly told the police he had met Tsilikin online and planned to blackmail Tsilikin, 54, about his homosexuality but killed him after an argument. The attacker’s social network accounts contain images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler, according to media reports.  

Many gay men I have interviewed in Russia have told me they fear meeting people online because of the risk of entrapment. One told me he was ambushed twice within several months by people who pretended online to be interested in him. One of the assailants broke his jaw.

It’s critical the prosecuting authorities do not ignore evidence of all possible motives for this gruesome killing, including Tsilikin’s sexual orientation. Russia has hate crime laws on the books that can be applied. I have reason to be skeptical: of the several dozen anti-LGBT attacks I've documented in recent years, none were investigated and prosecuted as hate crimes, even the ones that most blatantly involving a hate motive.

Russian officials and state media spread hateful, anti-LGBT rhetoric. In this environment, the absence of any concerted official efforts to condemn discrimination against LGBT people is effectively a carte blanche to engage in homophobic violence. As Natalia Tsymbalova, an LGBT activist who knew Tsilikin, told me “there will always be others who will go beyond words and express their hate through violence if they think it’s allowed.”

Until Russian authorities rein in their own hateful rhetoric, acknowledge their obligation to protect those who identify as LGBT and their supporters, and act on that obligation, the attacks will continue. And some, like Dmitry Tsilikin, will pay with their lives.

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This video contains disturbing images of attacks on LGBT people filmed and disseminated by the perpetrators. Viewer discretion advised.

“Why the fuck are you dressed like that?” 

“I’m coming from a costume party.”

“Take that!”

Human Rights Watch has documented a large number of vicious attacks and aggressive harassment of LGBT -- lesbian gay bisexual and transgender -- people in Russia.

“If you dress like that again you fucker.”

It's happening in the context of the homophobic legislation that bans propaganda of "non-traditional" sexual relationships among minors.

A vigilante group, Occupy Pedophilia, essentially uses, the pretext of protecting children, of fighting pedophilia to harass and attack gay people. 

“You’ll come with us. 

“I won’t come with you, I’ll stay here.”

They invite them for a fake date and they proceed to berate them for their homosexuality and in many cases to abuse them physically. They film all these proceedings and then post them on social networks, on YouTube, to humiliate the victim even further. People think that an LGBT person is not a human being, but simply a toy they can play with. If such a person is walking on the street, they think, Why not punch him? What we see in these videos are criminal offenses, happening in the context of complete impunity.

“You piece of trash!”

This an organized phenomenon.

These groups operate across Russia and are coordinated online. And this movement has a distinct ideology, a neo-Nazi ideology. It’s important to understand who we’re dealing with. These are fascists who have chosen the easiest prey, gay people. And they don’t even have to hide it anymore.

“I’m sorry, I’m guilty.”

“Do you agree that we should kill you?”

“I suppose that’s my fate.”

In one of the most egregious cases of violence that we have seen so far and documented an Uzbek migrant was lured and abducted by a group who burned his clothes. They put a gun, or what looked like a gun to his head. They threatened him with violence and forced him to say that he is gay and that he regrets that he is gay. Then they handcuffed him gave him a huge glass bottle and ordered him to rape himself with that bottle.

Almost every single demonstration for the support of LGBT rights and LGBT equality that happened last year was met with aggression, violence, attacks and harassment of LGBT activists. 

Police on one hand detained LGBT activists but on the other hand there is a total failure on the part of the Russian law enforcement authorities to take active measures to prosecute hate crimes against LGBT people.

“I was punched in the forehead, and the bruises descended under my eyes. There was a lot of swelling, one eye did not open at all. And when I went to the police in order to submit a claim, the officers at the station just said, ‘That’s alright, you’re gay, so it’s normal that you were attacked, why would you need to submit a complaint against someone?’ That’s how it goes.” 

Russia should take active steps to investigate these homophobic crimes and bring the attackers to justice. It should also denounce publicly this violence and make sure there is zero-tolerance for homophobic crimes and violence in Russia. The Russian authorities should repeal the federal propaganda law because it only inflates this type of violence and shows Russian people that LGBT community is second-class citizens in Russia and that violence against them is normal.


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