Authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have launched an anti-gay campaign that has led to authorities rounding up dozens of men suspected of being homosexual, according to the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and human rights activists.
The newspaper’s report, by an author regarded as a leading authority on Chechnya, claimed that more than 100 people had been detained and three men killed in the roundup. It claimed that among those detained were well-known local television personalities and religious figures.
Alvi Karimov, spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, described the report as “absolute lies and disinformation”, basing his denial on the claim that there were no gay people in Chechnya. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” he told Interfax news agency.
“If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
A spokesman for the region’s interior ministry told the Russian newspaper RBC that the report was “an April fool’s joke”.
However, Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group, told the Guardian she had been receiving worrying information about the issue from various sources over the past 10 days. “I have heard about it happening in Grozny [the Chechen capital], outside Grozny, and among people of very different ages and professions,” she said.
The extreme taboo nature of the subject meant that much of the information was arriving second or third hand, and as yet there are no fully verifiable cases, she added. “It’s next to impossible to get information from the victims or their families, but the number of signals I’m receiving from different people makes it hard not to believe detentions and violence are indeed happening.”