About two thousand people watched the death of Valentina Grigoriev live on YouTube. They watched impassively as her boyfriend, the popular youtuber Russian Stanislav Teshetnikov (known as Reeflay), slapped her, pulled her hair, harassed her and then threw her into the courtyard of her house in a Moscow town, yelling at her that she smelled bad. The 26-year-old, whom Reeflay’s followers knew from many other transmissions in which she suffered other harassment and abuse, spent hours in her underwear in the snow, at sub-zero temperatures. When Teshetnikov dragged her home, she was not moving. She was already dead. Many of his followers thought that youtuber, known for accepting humiliating challenges for money, was doing “theater” to create more buzz, according to some of the comments on the channel, now removed by YouTube.
Moscow police arrested 30-year-old Teshetnikov on Friday, accused of “deliberately causing serious harm to the health” of the girl. They have decreed two months of preventive detention. Grigoriev had a closed head injury, multiple signs of blows, and a subdural hematoma. Some old injuries, says the Investigative Committee of the Moscow Regional Directorate, which is investigating the exact cause of death. Now under scrutiny is also what happened during the broadcast at dawn on Thursday and in other episodes of the Reeflay channel; also the role of the spectators.
The live images showed Teshetnikov shaking the immobile girl inside the house, giving her a feint of heart massage and shouting “Live, live.” Then he placed her on the couch and sat for the camera whimpering and asking his followers for advice. His lawyer claims that he called emergency services immediately, but some of the messages from his followers comment that Reeflay asked them to call. When the sanitarians arrived and throughout the process until they certified Grigoriev’s death, the youtuber continued broadcasting. Also when the police arrived, until they ordered him to turn off the camera.
In Russia, where violence against women is a major problem, there is no specific law against gender violence and three years ago domestic violence was decriminalized, which greatly reduced penalties (a fine of about 500 euros if it is considered the “first time” and there are no serious injuries) and, consequently, the complaints, according to the experts. Machismo and the criminalization of victims is also extremely frequent. Not a few Russian media have dedicated their coverage of the Reeflay case to the supposed “dissipated life” of Valentina Grigoriev, if she had drunk or taken drugs that and other nights, if she had other partners, what did she do professionally, instead of putting the accent on the aggressor and the signs of abuse shown by other videos on his channel.
The youtuber, who had several thousand followers on his YouTube channel, had gained popularity by accepting challenges from viewers on that channel and on Twitch for a few thousand rubles. Some were made by him, others included other people. Also Grigoriev, and almost always involved harassment or extreme actions. In one of his last broadcasts he advertised making the young woman eat garbage for 3,000 rubles (about 33 euros), again it was mud, or to sit on her face for 2,000 (about 22 euros). One of his latest videos shows Teshetnikov pulling the girl’s hair and spraying her face with pepper spray. Everything on camera. None of the people who saw those scenes live ever reported anything.
Teshetnikov will be in custody for two months. His supporters have launched a fundraising campaign for a lawyer.
The case is not unique. At the end of October, the Russian investigation committee opened criminal proceedings against another blogger, Andrei Burim, who broadcast the attack on his girlfriend live during a party. Again, while he was hitting the girl’s head against the table, neither those present at the venue nor his followers (before they blocked the channel, he had 700,000 subscribers) did nothing. The young woman reported the case and received hundreds of threatening messages on her Instagram account.