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More Russian LGBT Supporters Injured In Attacks In 2019, Watchdog Says

Police detain Yelena Grigoryeva during a rally against discrimination in St. Petersburg on April 17, 2019. She was killed in July.
Police detain Yelena Grigoryeva during a rally against discrimination in St. Petersburg on April 17, 2019. She was killed in July.

A prominent Moscow-based watchdog says the number of casualties in attacks on members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Russia increased in 2019, while it also said its research showed that ethnic-based hate crimes declined.

The Sova Center, a respected research organization that tracks hate crimes and extremist movements in Russia, also said in its annual report released on February 4 that the number of attacks by pro-government groups against their opponents declined in 2019.

Sova said one LGBT activist was killed and seven injured in 2019. In the previous year, one member of the LGBT community was killed and five injured in apparent hate-based attacks.

The report said that victims in 2019 were mainly participants in rallies or other events associated with the LGBT community, but it added that "there were also attacks on passersby to such events [and] on those who were mistaken to be LGBT in appearance."

"In addition to physical attacks, LGBT activists regularly face threats from homophobic citizens and right-wing radicals of all kinds," the reported added

Sova stressed there were no official statistics on such attacks and that it remained impossible to gauge the actual level of homophobia in the country.

Members of Russia's LGBT community and advocates for their rights have been the targets of worsening threats in recent years.

President Vladimir Putin has asserted that Russia does not discriminate against gay people, but rights activists strenuously dispute that claim.

The most high-profile killing in 2019 of an LGBT activist was the murder of Yelena Grigoryeva in St. Petersburg.

Before her death, Grigoryeva received numerous threats from unknown individuals and her name was included to the so-called "black list" of a homophobic group -- Saws Against LGBT. However, investigators did not label her killing as a hate crime.

Sova noted Grigoryeva had contacted law enforcement about the threats but that "there was no reaction."

The Sova report also said that four attacks by pro-government groups against government critics were registered in Russia in 2019, down from 19 in 2018.

Also, the number of ethnically motivated attacks in 2019 was 45, down from 55 in 2018. Five people were killed in such attacks in 2019.

The majority of the attacks were in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with the main targets being individuals from Central Asia and the Caucasus, the report said.

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