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Russians protest over ‘homophobic’ murder of journalist

April 15, 2016

Russian gay rights activists on Friday held a protest over the murder of a journalist in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, accusing the authorities of hushing up a homophobic hate crime.

54-year-old journalist and respected theatre critic Dmitry Tsilikin was found stabbed to death in his flat on April 1, with investigators saying he met his killer online.

Gay activists and local media have suggested the murder had a homophobic motive, citing neo-Nazi messages posted on social media by the detained suspect, a student.

Around a dozen activists attended the protest on a pedestrian street in the centre of Saint Petersburg on Friday, monitored by police who did not break it up.

One young woman stood with her mouth taped over holding a placard with a photo of Tsilikin.

“Dmitry Tsilikin was cruelly murdered in Saint Petersburg. A young neo-Nazi killed him because he was gay,” her placard said.

“That is the result of the government’s homophobic policies.”

“The murder of Dmitry is just the the tip of the iceberg. There is a climate of homophobia in the country. We need to talk about it,” gay rights activist Alexei Sergeyev told AFP at the protest.

Police 10 days after Tsilikin was killed detained the suspected attacker, named as a 21-year-old student, who has confessed to the crime but has not yet been charged.

Investigators said Tsilikin met his attacker online and invited him to his flat.

The student apparently stabbed Tsilikin after an argument, investigators said, adding that the suspect had fled with the dead man’s wallet and laptop.

President Vladimir Putin has cracked down on gay pride events, in 2013 signing a law banning “propaganda” of gay relationships to minors despite international condemnation.

While the end of the Soviet Union led to decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia, homophobia remains widely socially acceptable and almost no public figures have come out as gay.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.