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LGBT activists believe the real number is far higher and say the attacks have increased in the past two years.
Since homosexuality finds little acceptance in Russian society, many gays keep their sexual orientation hidden from their families, friends and co-workers.
The gay rights group Vykhod, or Coming Out, said they registered 12 such attacks in St.
This makes them easy extortion targets for criminals.
Vykhod spokeswoman Nika Yuryeva said most of the recent attacks have followed the same pattern as the one seen by the St. Alexander Loza, a legal adviser at Positive Dialogue, an organization that provides consulting services for gays, particularly those living with the HIV virus, has heard similar stories.
But he said the attackers beat and threatened him – and suggested they had friends in the police force who they said would lock him up on fabricated charges.
He said they demanded more than 100,000 rubles ($1,500).
One of them took his bank card and cleaned out his account, and they released him only after he agreed to transfer the balance the next day, he said.
The crime gangs who carry out such attacks are not necessarily anti-gay, but have identified a profitable niche where they feel they can operate with impunity, Loza and Yuryeva said. “They commit these crimes not because they are homophobes – they are simply taking advantage of the situation,” knowing that few people would go to the police after such an experience, he said.
Alexander Zhelezkin, who manages outreach programs at Positive Dialogue, said the law was what made him decide to become a gay activist. For prominent television journalist Anton Krasovsky, however, that move ended his career in Russia.
He was fired after he came out on the air in 2013 and hasn’t been able to find a job in television since.
“I think they are just common criminals who chose this kind of method.” St.
Petersburg police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko said he had not heard about these blackmail cases and said he wasn’t aware of any anti-gay attacks being registered in the city in recent years.
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