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Two people killed and 40 arrested in new 'gay purge' in Chechnya, activists say

Chechen authorities immediately denied the claims.

Flowers laid on a flag outside the Russian embassy in London during a protest against a purge of gay men in Chechnya in 2017
Flowers laid on a flag outside the Russian embassy in London during a protest against a purge of gay men in Chechnya in 2017
Image: Dominic Harris via PA Images

A RUSSIAN LGBT rights group has reported a new wave of persecution against gay people in Chechnya, in which it says around 40 people have been arrested and two killed. 

Chechen authorities immediately denied the claims which come two years after an international outcry when gay men said they had been tortured by law-enforcement agencies in the majority-Muslim Russian republic.

“Since the end of December 2018, there has been a new wave of detentions of men and women in Chechnya, related to their presumed or real sexual orientation,” the Russian LGBT Network said in a statement.  

“According to the network’s information, about 40 people have been detained… and at least two people have been killed,” it said. 

Igor Kochetkov of the LGBT Network said police were confiscating documents to ensure those arrested in the crackdown could not flee the republic, as others have done previously. 

Those arrested “are threatened with fabricated criminal cases against them or their relatives, they are forced to sign blank forms,” he said.

A spokesman for Ramzan Kadyrov, who has ruled the republic with Kremlin-backing for more than a decade, rejected the report. 

“This is a complete lie… there were no detentions on the grounds of sexual orientation in the Chechen Republic over the period mentioned,” Alvi Karimov told the Interfax news agency. 

Amnesty International, however, said the reports were “credible”. 

“Many LGBTI people in Russia are still traumatised by the 2017 purge which saw dozens of gay men in Chechnya abducted and tortured and others killed,” Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said.

“We are horrified by reports that at least two people have died from torture-inflicted injuries. With lives in jeopardy, there is an urgent need for an international response to protect gay and lesbian people in Chechnya,” he said. 

Russian authorities opened an inquiry after the reports of the persecution of gay men in Chechnya in 2017. 

But the LGBT Network said no meaningful investigation had been carried out.

“The fact that there has still not been any justice for the 2017 attacks shows that gay and lesbian people in Chechnya cannot rely on the Russian authorities to protect them,” O’Gorman said.

“We are calling for the international community to take immediate action to protect gay and lesbian people in Chechnya, and to increase the pressure on the Russian authorities to properly investigate these horrendous crimes.”

Homosexuality is legal in Russia but discrimination is rife. 

A controversial “gay propaganda” law brought in by Russia in 2013 officially forbids the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors but effectively bans gay rights activism.

© – AFP 2019 with reporting by Hayley Halpin

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