The US State Department has called on Russia to urgently investigate reports of a renewed purge of LGBT+ people in Chechnya.
The autonomous region of Russia, which is ruled by anti-LGBT leader Ramzan Kadyrov, has twice in two years been accused of carrying out homophobic purges.
The news has been met by a call for immediate investigation by the Russian government.
US State Department: Russia must investigate anti-LGBT persecution
The US State Department’s Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said: “We are deeply disturbed by credible reports out of Chechnya about renewed attacks against individuals perceived to be members of the LGBTI community.
“Civil society groups report that at least 40 individuals have been illegally detained since December, including two who reportedly died in custody after being tortured.
“We call on Russia to live up to its international obligations and commitments and its own constitution, and launch an immediate investigation into these human rights abuses.”
UK condemns ‘appalling’ anti-gay persecution in Chechnya
The UK also pressed Russia for action on the issue.
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Sir Alan Duncan said: “The persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya is utterly appalling.
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“Recent reports indicate that two people have died in custody following torture, and a further 40 remain in detention – all simply for their sexual orientation. Persecution for being LGBT, in any country in the world, is abhorrent.
“The Russian authorities must protect their people from these human rights abuses, and conduct a credible investigation into these reports immediately. There should be no climate of impunity for those who commit these abuses.”
Duncan added: “We and the international community have repeatedly called for the Russian Government to conduct an investigation and hold those responsible for human rights abuses in Chechnya to account, including through the 2018 OSCE Moscow Mechanism.
“All decent people very much hope that Chechnya can put an end to this sort of barbaric persecution and step into the modern world of civility and tolerance.”
Russia has dismissed concerns about Chechnya
Russian authorities have previously largely dismissed or ignored reports of the anti-gay purge and international condemnation of the Chechen government.
According to the Russian LGBT+ Network, more than 100 people have fled Chechnya since the anti-gay purge began in 2017. Several have opened up about the torture they were subject to under detention.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has publicly insisted that homosexuals are “not people” and should be removed to “purify” the blood of the region.
The Russian government claimed in 2018 that it was unable to verify the existence of any gay people in Chechnya.