Reports of Chechnya gay purge are false and meant to smear Russia, says official
No LGBT people have been persecuted in Chechnya, and reports of a gay purge have been used as “a propaganda campaign against Russia around the world,” a Russian Embassy official has said.
Dmitry Alushkin, a senior figure at Russia’s embassy in Israel, was responding to reports describing how more than 100 gay men have been detained, tortured and in some cases killed in Chechnya.
Victims are reportedly being beaten and tortured with electricity, as well as being forced to live with no water or food.
The Russian LGBT Network has helped to evacuate 40 gay men from the region, with those involved describing the “deadly dangerous” situation they found there.
And the reports have been separately confirmed by Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group, both of which cite on-the-ground sources that appear to confirm gay men have been targeted for detention.
In its report, HRW said: “The information published by Novaya Gazeta is consistent with the reports Human Rights Watch recently received from numerous trusted sources, including sources on the ground.
“The number of sources and the consistency of the stories leaves us with no doubt that these devastating developments have indeed occurred.”
But in a letter to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Alushkin wrote that there were “no victims of persecution, threats or violence” in Chechnya.
He added that articles published in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and elsewhere constituted an “excuse for the beginning of a propaganda campaign against Russia around the world”.
Journalists at Novaya Gazeta who exposed the purge have been forced into hiding as they have received numerous threats from the largest mosque in the region, which has declared jihad against the newspaper.
Alushkin said a Russian investigation had discovered the revelations emerged after “local governments … rejected requests from representatives of the LGBT community to hold rallies.”
While this is true, his implication that this was a factor in what he calls “false reports” of the gay purge coming out is unfounded.
He adds: “Neither law enforcement authorities or the [UN] Human Rights Council [or] the president of the Chechen Republic have received complaints on this matter.
“The Human Rights Council conducted an inquiry of its own and did not find even indirect evidence of such accusations.”
Last month, human rights experts who form the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council released a press statement titled: “End abuse and detention of gay men in Chechnya”.
“We would like to note that the Russian system of government is of a democratic nature and we are calling to rely on objective and reliable data – and not on rumours and speculation – to analyse the political developments in our country,” Alushkin finished.
Earlier this week, Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied that there have ever been any gay men to persecute in the region, instead calling them “fake” Chechens.
The region’s leader said he would cooperate with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s investigation into reports of gay men being abducted, tortured and killed in the republic, though he denied any gay Chechens actually existed.
Following the initial reports, it was revealed that Chechnya authorities are forcing gay men into concentration camps, sparking an outcry from LGBT and human rights activists across the world.
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A number of heart-breaking stories from the region have been shared, including stories of parents of gay people who were issued a warning to kill their children before police killed them in torture camps.
Tanya Lokshina, from the Human Rights Watch, said that Chechen authorities had been conducting “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel and degrading treatment” over the span of the last two decades.
Britain’s deputy foreign secretary revealed the terrifying threat from the Chechen leader while taking an urgent question on the situation in parliament last month.
Ramadan starts on May 26 this year and is widely celebrated in Chechnya, which is a predominantly Muslim area.