Chechnya's president has reportedly vowed to "eliminate" the region's gay population by the end of next month as the brutal persecution and torture of gay men in the region continues.
Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov has promised to wipe out gay men from the region by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on May 26 this year and is widely celebrated in Chechnya.
The UK's Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alan Duncan, revealed the British government had been made aware of the horrifying threat while taking questions in parliament this week.
"Human rights groups report that these anti-gay campaigns and killings are orchestrated by the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov," Duncan said.
"He has carried out other violent campaigns in the past, and this time he is directing his efforts at the LGBT community. Sources have said that he wants the [LGBT] community eliminated by the start of Ramadan."
The minister, who is openly gay himself, added: "Such comments, attitudes and actions are absolutely beyond contemptible."
Horrifying accounts of brutality and killings have been emerging from the Russia republic over the last two weeks, after Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta reported that over 100 gay and bisexual men aged 16-50 had been detained by authorities over the last few months.
At least three men are known to have been killed, though the paper estimates the real figure to be higher, with witnesses and survivors reporting that detainees have been imprisoned together in large groups or ‘camps’, where they have been beaten and tortured – sometimes to death – by officials.
Denouncing events in Chechnya and urging the Russian government to take urgent action, Duncan told parliament: "The arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of over 100 men in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation is of the utmost concern to the UK."
He added: "Statements by the regional government in Chechnya that appear to condone and incite violence against LGBT people are utterly despicable.
"We condemn any and all persecution and call on the authorities to promptly investigate and ensure that the perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice.
"This would be in accordance with international human rights commitments adopted by the Russian government to respect the human rights of all individuals."
ABC News reported last week that a prominent spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, has denied evidence of systematic detention and torture of gay men in Chechnya, saying: "We do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area."
United Nations human rights experts have called on Russian government to intervene, while demonstrations of solidarity with Chechnya's LGBT+ community have been held around the world, including outside the Russian embassy in London.
Meanwhile, an Amnesty International petition calling on Russian’s prosecutor general, Aleksandr Ivanovich Bastrykin, to launch an urgent investigation into current events in Chechnya had reached over 158,000 signatures by Saturday morning (April 22).