A Russian man was brutally beaten to death after perpetrators decided that he was gay, investigators confirmed. The victim in the suspected homophobic attack sustained horrific injuries in the assault, including to his genitals.
“The motive for the crime was the information of [the victim's] non-traditional sexual orientation,” senior regional investigator Andrey Gapchenko said, adding that the investigation is unlikely to seek confirmation of whether the victim was actually gay.
Two suspected attackers have been arrested and another man is a witness in the case, he said.
The naked body of the deceased 23-year-old was discovered in the courtyard of an apartment building in Volgograd on May 10, the day after Russia celebrated Victory Day, which commemorates the end of World War II.
According to one of the suspects, the victim – named as Vladislav Tornovoy by media - came out as a homosexual to his friends while they were drinking beer on a bench outside. His friends reportedly decided to taunt him by making him walk home naked and began ripping off his clothes.
“When they were done, the men decided not to stop there,” Gapchenko said.
The victim was apparently raped with beer bottles and severely beaten, local media reported. After the brutal assault the suspects reportedly left, but later returned after realizing that the victim would call the police when he regained consciousness.
The perpetrators allegedly then decided to kill Tornovoy. One of the suspects picked up a 20kg (44-pound) rock and hit him with it eight times in the head. The suspects also tried and failed to burn his body by putting pieces of carton boxes underneath it and setting them on fire.
Currently, there are two suspects in the case: a 22-year-old man, who went to school with the victim, and his 27-year-old friend, who has a criminal record for theft. The latter has confessed to the murder, according to investigators. A third person is being treated as a witness in the investigation. If convicted, the perpetrators face up to 15 years each in jail.
The apparent gay hate murder caused outrage in the Russian LGBT activists. Police reporting homophobia as a motive in a violent crime is a rare acknowledgement in Russia, as most such cases are investigated as domestic crimes, RIA Novosti reported, citing LGBT activists.
Nikolay Alekseyev, a leader in Russia’s LGBT community, said he will be lobbying to tighten accountability for crimes committed on the basis of hatred of sexual orientation, Interfax quoted him as saying.
"The brutal incident that occurred in Volgograd, demonstrates the results of the ongoing national homophobic policy, which initiated the ban on the promotion of homosexuality,” Alekseyev said. “If the policy does not change then every year there will be more of these crimes.”
Whether Tornovoy was actually gay or just fell victim to alcohol-induced brutality is a matter of debate. A correspondent with lenta.ru news website contacted his friends and the local LGBT community in Volgograd. The friends maintain that the he was heterosexual and had been in a number of relationships with girls throughout his life. Local gays said they didn’t know the man before he was murdered.