Chechnya anti-gay purge: ’40 gay people detained, two dead’

Demonstrators lay roses on a rainbow flag as they protest over an alleged Chechnya anti-gay purge outside the Russian Embassy in London on June 2, 2017.

The Chechen authorities have resumed their anti-gay purge, LGBT+ activists in the region have said, denouncing the detention of at least 40 gay men and women in the past month.

Two people have also died in detention after being subject to torture, the Russian LGBT+ Network said on Monday (January 14), releasing a short report on the renewed anti-LGBT persecution.

The LGBT+ Network program director Igor Kochetskov said it is impossible to know the exact number of those targeted in the Chechnya anti-gay purge, but he alleged the involvement of law enforcement officers and the use of the same detention facility as the April 2017 persecutions, in the town of Argun.

“The local police makes every effort to prevent victims from leaving the region or applying to the courts in the future. They take away documents, they threat[en] the victims with the criminal proceedings against them or their close ones, and they force them to sign empty forms,” Kochetskov said in a statement.

“Widespread detentions, torture and killings of gay people have resumed in Chechnya.”

— Igor Kochetkov

The Russian LGBT+ Network said the anti-gay purge resumed at the end of December 2018, following the arrest of the administrator of a social media group for LGBT+ people in the North Caucasus region. A wave of new detentions followed after the authorities got hold of the contacts on the group administrator’s phone, activists said.

“Widespread detentions, torture and killings of gay people have resumed in Chechnya,” Kochetkov said, quoted in the Associated Press. “Persecution of men and women suspected of being gay never stopped. It’s only that its scale has been changing.”

The alleged 2017 anti-gay purge has yet to be investigated

Authorities in the republic, which has its own government but is a federal subject of the Russian Federation, have yet to comment on the activists’ report.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is loyal to the government of Vladimir Putin in Moscow, has previously denied carrying out an anti-gay purge, claiming there were no gay people in the country.

Russian authorities have also largely dismissed or ignored reports of the anti-gay purge and international condemnation of the Chechen government.

Openly gay Maxim Lapunov, 30, gives a press conference about the Chechnya anti-gay purge in Moscow on October 16, 2017.

Maxim Lapunov gave a chilling account of the abuse suffered during the Chechnya anti-gay purge. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty)

Maxim Lapunov, a Russian man from Siberia, was the first person to denounce the anti-gay purge to the Russian authorities, describing being held for 12 days in a blood-soaked cell, beaten with sticks and humiliated by police.

His account, among others, prompted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) to formally call on Russia to investigate reports of the purge.

According to the Russian LGBT+ Network, more than 100 people have fled Chechnya since the anti-gay purge began in 2017. Several have opened up about the torture they were subject to under detention.

One man, Movsar Eskarkhanov, obtained refugee status in Germany after he was forced to apologise on national television after speaking to Time magazine about the abuse suffered.