A 23-year-old man has been tortured to death in southern Russia, in what investigators are calling a homophobic attack.
The severely beaten, naked body of the as-yet-unnamed victim was found in an apartment building in the southern city of Volgograd on Saturday, suffering numerous injuries and mutilations. Two men have been detained in connection with the murder.
In a rare admission of a hate crime in the country, the spokeswoman for the Volgograd regional branch of the Investigative Committee, Natalia Kunitskaya, confirmed murder was believed to be homophobic.
She said the victim had been drinking with two other men in celebration of Victory Day before the attack took place, adding that the suspects allegedly started beating the man he revealed he was gay.
According to the Moscow-based Investigative Committee, two men, aged 22 and 27 respectively, have been detained in connection with the attack.
Describing the nature of the victim’s injuries, Ms Kunitskaya said: “He was raped with beer bottles and had his skull smashed with a stone.” She also confirmed that the man’s penis had been mutilated.
The murder comes amid renewed concern that increasingly prominent far-right groups are fuelling anti-homosexual sentiment in Russia.
The country has repeatedly denied violating gay rights, although homophobia is reportedly widespread and often seen as socially acceptable - especially outside of Moscow.
A nationwide law banning “gay propaganda” among minors is currently being considered, with critics arguing its wording is so vague as to potentially justify any repression of homosexuality. The law is already in place regionally in several locations, including St Petersburg.
President Vladimir Putin, who prides himself on his macho image and “traditional” values, also recently warned that Russia may change its adoption agreements with any country that legalises gay marriage.
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union, and only removed it from its official list of psychiatric disorders in 1999.