Two masked men attacked the offices of an LGBTI support group on Sunday with rifles and baseball bats, leaving two injured – including one blinded in one eye.

The attack on LaSky, a non-governmental organisation that provides support to gay people living with HIV, happened during a ‘coffee party’ – a weekly gathering of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) and heterosexual people aimed at establishing tolerance and understanding. About 25-30 people were present.

Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Network told media that police arrived at the scene of the attack but quickly left, because ‘they did not see any evidence of the crime.’ The St Petersburg Public Prosecutor later said that they opened an investigation into ‘hooliganism’.

One activist, who asked not to be named, said the attack has contributed to the climate of stress and fear among the city’s LGBTI community.

Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said: ‘This latest insidious attack is sadly characteristic of a widespread atmosphere of homophobia in Russia today. If nothing is done to combat the hate, the ground is fertile for further violence.

‘The Russian authorities must seek out, investigate and prosecute all those responsible for these violent attacks. Russian President Putin has publicly said the country would welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex – LGBTI – activists at the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, but such pledges ring hollow in the face of these on-going hate crimes.

‘This was a serious violent assault that has caused severe injuries and could have resulted in death. Those responsible must face serious consequences to the full extent of the law.’

Earlier this year, a vaguely worded federal law against ‘homosexual propaganda’ went into effect in Russia that institutionalises discrimination against LGBTI individuals and a wide range of organisations that promote LGBTI rights in Russia.

The law restricts the rights to freedom of expression and assembly of LGBTI individuals, and has provoked a wave of violence by vigilante groups across the country.

Amnesty has called for the law to be immediately repealed.