KAMENSK-URAL, Russia — A network of loosely organized groups of Russian ultra-nationalists are targeting LGBT youth for bullying and assault by creating fake social media profiles and gay personals to attract unsuspecting victims.
Members of the groups use the popular European social media site VK.com to lure victims to meeting places, where they are then harassed, brutally beaten, humiliated and forced to perform sexual acts with inanimate objects.
Many of the encounters are recorded on video and digital photos and then uploaded to YouTube and VK.com groups “Occupy Pedophilia” and “Occupy Kamensky.”
The most active group, “Occupy pedophilia,” is headed by Maxim Martsinkevich, who is known (in Russian) as “Tesak” — which translates as “The Cleaver.”
Martsinkevich’s group operates from Kamensk, located in the Ural mountains about 1,900 miles east of Moscow.
Martsinkevich, the former leader of a Russian neo-fascist organization “Format 18,” was released from prison in December 2010, where he was serving a three-year sentence for inciting ethnic hatred. For two years, he has traveled around the Russian federation promoting his group’s involvement in the capture of “paedophiles”, using the VK adverts as “live bait.”
He has also been a strong proponent of recent changes in Russian laws that have criminalized discussion of LGBTQ issues and gatherings such as Pride events.
According to Russian LGBT equality rights activists, there are approximately 500 online groups, which have been created on VK.com in order to organize illegal militant groups in every Russian city.
Many from these groups have taken to following Martsinkevich’s lead as they allegedly attempt to “identify pedophiles” and protect children, although one Russian gay activist told LGBTQ Nation that, in reality, means their idea of fighting pedophiles is to Target gay male teenagers who respond to same-sex personal ads.
According to the activists and from accounts from the groups themselves, nearly all of the attacks occur in broad daylight and are recorded and are freely distributed on YouTube and VK.com in order to out LGBT teens to their respective schools, parents and friends.
Nicolai Alexseev, head of Gay.RU, a Moscow based LGBTQ equality rights group, told LGBTQ Nation Thursday that the reports that many of the victims were driven to suicides, and the rest “being deeply traumatized,” are true.
Another activist, Valentin Degterev, said that efforts to squash these militant groups often ends up being useless as the local police more often than not refuse to step in and launch criminal inquiries, despite complaints filed by victims, parents of victims, activists, and evidence that clear violation of Russian criminal statues had taken place.
The founder of VK.com, Pavel Durov, has not responded to repeated requests for comment or action, although Degterev noted that VK.com intermittently shuts down selected groups and profiles only to allow them to be re-open on the next day.
An email request for comment by LGBTQ Nation to YouTube regarding the numerous videos depicting the violence, which is in violation of YouTube‘s content guidelines, was not responded to by press time.