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Hundreds protest over Chechnya’s detention and torture of gay men

By Will Stroude

A demonstration against reports of the detention and killing of gay men in Chechnya took place in London last night (April 12).

The protest was held outside the Russian embassy in London. Attendees were told to: “Bring banners, flags and most importantly bring yourselves to challenge this oppression and show solidarity with LGBT+ people in Russia.”

Reports by Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta over the last week state that over 100 men aged 16-50 have been detained by local 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.

Witness and survivor testimonies have alleged that detainees have been hunted down via social media over the last few months before being imprisoned together in large groups or ‘camps’, where they have been beaten and tortured – sometimes to death – by official authorities.

Those at the protests held signs and placed flowers on a pink triangle outside the embassy in a display of solidarity.

Michael Salter-Church, co-chair of Pride in London, told the Evening Standard: “It sends a shudder down the spine to hear about concentration camps in 2017.

“Russia’s abuses cannot be ignored.”

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.”

The legal status of homosexuality in the predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya is unclear, but authorities have historically turned a blind eye to anti-gay violence and murder, while Kadyrov has previously said he approves of honour killings.

A petition calling on the Russian prosecutor general to investigate the crimes has so far amassed almost 90,000 signatures.