Yelena Grigoriyeva, often called Lena by friends, was a prominent LGBT rights campaigner in Russia.
She was part of democratic, anti-war and LGBT movements. In her activism, Yelena was a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin and his administration, expressing her opposition against Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and the ill-treatment of prisoners.
Yelena came out as bisexual earlier in 2019.
"Her coming out was a surprise to me, and I didn't approve of it. 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."
- Olga Smirnova
Yelena did receive multiple death threats and according to some of her acquaintances, was listed on a homophobic website that called on its visitors to hunt down LGBT persons. She reported the threats to the police, however the Russian state failed to provide protection.
But even in a society where political opposition, as well as members of the LGBT community and advocates for their rights, face continuous and increasing violence, Yelena kept campaigning for social justice and equality.
“She did not miss a single action. And they detained her so often that I already lost count,”
- Olga Smirnova (fellow opposition activist and friend).
Yelena was murdered on 21 July 2019, not far from home. A suspect was arrested but according to some sources, many friends and fellow activists believe that the suspect is a scapegoat and that this was a targeted political killing.
For Yelena’s relatives and friends, her case remains unsolved even though the suspect confessed.
In 2013, Russia passed legislation banning the spreading of what it described as ‘gay propaganda’. In 2014, Human Rights Watch published a report relating to this.