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Prime Minister Theresa May vows urgent action over ‘abhorrent’ persecution of gays in Chechnya

Nick Duffy May 10, 2017
Theresa May

Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May has addressed the persecution of gay men in the Russian territory of Chechnya.

Human rights groups have raised concerns about the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya, an autonomous region of Russia.

Reports last month alleged that more than 100 gay men have been detained in a ‘purge’ in the region, with many feared dead. Further investigations have alleged that ‘honour killings’ of LGBT people are being encouraged by the regional government, while leader Ramzan Kadyrov denies that gay people exist in the region.

The Kremlin finally opened a probe of the issue last week after Russian President Putin was challenged on the issue by German Chancellor Angela Merkel,  but the international community has come under criticism for a slow response.

In a letter today, UK Prime Minister Theresa May branded the atrocities “abhorrent”.
Theresa May

Responding to a plea from a cross-party group of politicians led by Labour’s Seb Dance and Tory Ian Duncan, the Prime Minister wrote: “This is a deeply troubling issue and I appreciate you sharing your concerns with me.”

She wrote: “Officials from our Embassy in Moscow have raised our concerns at a senior level with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and are exploring possibilities for a joint démarche with our international partners in country.

“Urgent action is also being taken to explore how best to provide support to the LGBT+ community in the region.”

The letter continues: “You are right to raise concerns about the unacceptable statement issued by the regional government in Chechnya. The UK Government has made clear that this response, implying that such treatment towards LGBT+ people is tolerable, is particularly abhorrent.”

She added: “More widely, the issue of LGBT+ rights is one that the UK raises regularly with the Russian authorities.

“I can reassure you that we have raised concerns, particularly about the Russian law prohibiting the promotion of ‘non-traditional’ sexual relations to minors since it came into place in June 2013.”

The letter comes after a cross-party campaign, while 40,000 people have now signed a PinkNews Petition calling for action.

Several party leaders in the UK have now spoken out on the issue, including Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and UKIP leader Paul Nuttall.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has so far declined to speak on the issue. Asked for comment last month, a spokesperson for the Labour leader told PinkNews that questions on foreign policy issues should be dealt with by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.

Labour MEP Seb Dance was one of the co-signatories of the letter to which the Prime Minister responded.

Mr Dance tweeted: “Pleased to receive reply from the PM outlining measures UK is taking on plight of gay men in Chechnya. Crucial we work x-party & w/ allies.”

Read Mrs May’s letter in full below:

I am writing to thank you and your co-signatories for your letter about the ill-treatment of men in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation. This is a deeply troubling issue and I appreciate you sharing your concerns with me.

The Minister for Europe and the Americas answered an Urgent Question on this most pressing issue in the House of Commons on 20 April, expressing our shock at these utterly barbaric reports. The Minister of State, The Baroness Anelay of St Johns, also released a statement on 7 April which outlined the UK’s concern.

The Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has written to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the UK, His Exellency Alexander Yakovenko, to support a full, thorough and independent investigation into the matter.

Furthermore, officials from our Embassy in Moscow have raised our concerns at a senior level with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and are exploring possibilities for a joint démarche with our international partners in country. Urgent action is also being taken to explore how best to provide support to the LGBT+ community in the region.

You are right to raise concerns about the unacceptable statement issued by the regional government in Chechnya. The UK Government has made clear that this response, implying that such treatment towards LGBT+ people is tolerable, is particularly abhorrent.

More widely, the issue of LGBT+ rights is one that the UK raises regularly with the Russian authorities. I can reassure you that we have raised concerns, particularly about the Russian law prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations to minors since it came into place in June 2013.

Officials meet regularly with LGBT+ activists and attend LGBT+ events, such as Queerfest and the Side-by-Side Film Festival, to show visible support. We have also provided support to organisations such as yours, and helped to facilitate Sir Ian McKellen’s visit to Russia in 2016, during which he met with LGBT+ activists in Moscow, St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg.

I appreciate you writing with your concerns and I hope this reply has assured you that the Government has raised this points continuously at various levels.

Theresa May

More: Chechnya, Europe, Gay, LGBT, PM, Prime Minister, Russia, Theresa May

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