Putin spokesperson denies detention and torture of gay men in Chechnya

There is no reliable evidence to support the detention, torture and murder of gay men in prison camps in Chechnya, according to a source in the Russian government. ABC News reports that Dmitry Peskov, a prominent spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin said: "We do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area." United Nations human rights experts had previously called on Russia to end the abuse and murder of gay men in Chechnya. “We urge the authorities to put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual in the Chechen Republic,” the experts said. They added that LGBT+ Chechnyans “are living in a climate of fear fuelled by homophobic speeches by local authorities.” “It is crucial that reports of abductions, unlawful detentions, torture, beatings and killings of men perceived to be gay or bisexual are investigated thoroughly,” the experts added. 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.

Despite the growing evidence of mass targeting of gay men in the region, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s Russian-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied the reports, insisting that gay people do “not exist” in the republic.

The spokesperson added: “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

This is a position that appears to be shared among Chechnyan people. The Guardian reports that Thursday saw a protest of up to 15,000 people outside a mosque in Chechnya's capital city, Grozny. The crowd gathered to protest the supposed “lies and libel” of Novaya Gazeta for suggesting that there are gay men in Chechnya.

They called on the government to pass a resolution "The centuries-old traditions of Chechen society, the dignity of Chechen men, and our faith have all been insulted, and we promise that those behind it will face reprisals, whoever they are and wherever they are.”

Journalists with Novaya Gazeta have admitted that they fear for their safety as there have been threats of reprisals. Elena Milashina, the journalist who first broke the story, said: “My sources tell me there’s a serious danger, for me personally and for every employee of Novaya Gazeta.” Meanwhile, an Amnesty International petition calling on Russian’s prosecutor general, Aleksandr Ivanovich Bastrykin, to investigate the reports had reached over 95,000 signatures by Thursday morning (April 13). Wednesday night (April 12) saw a protest at the Russian embassy in London over the situation in Chechnya. More stories: Hundreds protest over Chechnya’s detention and torture of gay men Human rights group confirm reports gay men in Chechnya are being detained in anti-gay purge