MOSCOW A man was murdered in Russia because he was gay, investigators said on Monday, the second such killing in less than a month, and activists fear homophobic violence is being fuelled by President Vladimir Putin's conservative agenda.
Three men in a village on the Kamchatka peninsula on Russia's eastern coast stabbed and trampled the victim to death last week, the country's Investigative Committee said.
The suspects, who are under arrest, put the 39-year-old's body in his car and set in on fire, it said in a statement. Interfax news agency reported the victim was a senior administrator at an airport.
It is unusual for Russian authorities to link crimes with homophobia. Last month investigators in the southern city of Volgograd said a 23-year-old man was tortured and killed after revealing he was gay during a drinking session.
Activists said that killing was an example of rising violence against homosexuals, which they fear is being fuelled by a bill backed by Putin's allies in parliament that would ban spreading homosexual "propaganda" among minors.
"Now the deputy director of an airport has been killed in Kamchatka. Because he was gay. And it's going to get worse," Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia's most prominent gay rights activist, said on Twitter.
Critics say the bill would effectively ban gay rights rallies and events. Alexeyev has said it is part of a "homophobic policy" that is giving Russians carte blanche to attack gays.
Homosexuality was decriminalised after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but a poll by the independent Levada Center last month found 38 percent of Russians believe gay people need treatment and 13 percent said they should face prosecution.
Putin has championed socially conservative values and the moral authority of the Russian Orthodox Church during his new term which began in May last year, after a series of large street protests by mostly liberal Russians in big cities.
Putin has said Russia does not discriminate against gay people but has criticized them for failing to increase the population.
Russia plans to amend legislation to ensure foreign same-sex couples do not adopt Russian children, after Putin said last month that a French law allowing same-sex marriage went against traditional Russian values.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Pravin Char)