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Journalists face death threats over Chechnya gay prison camp reporting

By Ross Semple

Russian journalists who uncovered the detention and torture of gay men in Chechen prison camps have faced death threats.

Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported last month 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 in Chechnya, 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.

Salon reports that “an envelope filled with a mysterious white powder” was delivered to the newspaper’s office, with a return address of Grozny – Chechnya’s capital city. Six Novaya Gazeta journalists have been murdered or died in “suspicious circumstances” over the last two decades, some after investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Chechnya’s president has reportedly vowed to “eliminate” the region’s gay population by the end of next month. 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.

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.”

ABC News reported

 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.

Gay men detained in Chechen prison camps have spoken about the violence inflicted upon them, from beatings to electrocution.

CNN conducted interviews with various men who had been detained in these prison camps.

Watch the interviews below: