Putin’s Spokesman Says Russia Found No Evidence of Persecution of Gays in Chechnya

A picture made available on 20 April 2017 shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meeting with the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov (R) in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 19 April 2017. Kadyrov called “untrue” media reports about harassing gay men in Chechen Republic, including their detentions and killings. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin pool/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Russia’s authorities have not found evidence for reports that gays are being persecuted in the autonomous republic of Chechnya, Putin’s spokesman says.
  • Allegations are said to have been investigated by Russia’s law enforcement agencies and the country’s Ombudsman.
  • Chechen leader Kadyrov has met Russian President Putin, and told him that there was no way journalists could be threatened for writing about Chechnya’s alleged persecution of gays even though the Chechen people are very sensitive to ‘slander’.

No evidence has been found by Russia’s authorities to confirm reports about the persecution of gay people in the Russian republic of Chechnya, according to the spokesman of President Vladimir Putin.

Since the beginning of April, there have been reports by Russian media and human rights organizations that more than 100 gay men had been rounded up and thrown in prison in an anti-LGBT campaign in the autonomous republic of Chechnya in Southwest Russia.

The crackdown against homosexual men in Chechnya is reported to have started after local activists requested permission for a gay pride event from the authorities in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

A report about the anti-LGBT purge in the Russian republic of Chechnya was first published by independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta on April 1, 2017. It claimed that at least three gay men had been killed in the roundup, and that there had been “many more victims”.

The report entitled “Murder [Out] of Honor” said a gay pride march petition by a local gay rights activist had resurrected a local tradition in which a family could absolve its honor by killing a family member who may be considered to have brought disgrace upon it.

Most of the detained gay men are said to be kept in a prison in the town of Argun, likened by Western media to a concentration camp. International NGO Human Rights Watch said that “a brutal campaign against LGBT people has been sweeping through Chechnya” for the past few weeks.

Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov is known to be especially close with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has been credited with restoring loyalty to Moscow in the North Caucasus republic, which fought two bloody independence wars against Russia in the 1990s.

‘Out of the Question’

Reports about retaliation against gay people in Chechnya have not been confirmed, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday, as cited by state-run agency TASS.

In his words, Russia’s law enforcement agencies and Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova had been conducting a probe into these reports.

“We have not yet received evidence to prove these allegations,” Peskov said.

He also told reporters that Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov had a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and denied reports about the alleged persecution and detention of gay people.

Kadyrov also told Putin he “ruled out” the possibility that any threats had been made against journalists for publications about the situation in his republic.

Peskov said Kadyrov pointed out that the public opinion in Chechnya was “very irreconcilable” to slander in the mass media about alleged persecution for non-traditional sexual orientation.

“At the same time he [Kadyrov] confirmed there were absolutely no grounds to say that somebody might threaten journalists who write about that, or threaten their safety in the republic. This is out of the question,” Putin’s spokesman said.

“The confirmation that everything proceeds within the legal framework, the assurances the Chechen leader made, were naturally approved by the President,” Peskov added.

‘No Gay People’

Earlier, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s Interior Ministry dismissed Novaya Gazeta’s report about the roundup of gay men in the republic as an “April fools’ joke”, while Kadyrov’s press secretary immediately described the report as “absolute lies and disinformation,” contending that there were no gay people in Chechnya.

“If there were such people in Chechnya, law-enforcement agencies wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from where there is no returning,” the spokesman said.

Chechnya’s official news agency, Grozny Info, quoted numerous local commentators bashing Novaya Gazeta and other “enemies” of Chechnya and Russia for supposed attempts to discredit the Chechen people, “foster sodomy,” and undermine “traditional values.”

Following the reports about the persecution of gay people in Chechnya, EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani urged the Chechen authorities to explain the situation, while Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organization, which is not related to the EU and of which Russia is a member, also asked the Russian authorities to investigate the reports and to guarantee that the European Convention on Human Rights is observed.

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