'We Do Not Have Any Reliable Information About Any Problems in This Area'
The Chief spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that the Russian government had not been made aware of the ongoing persecution, detention, and murder of LGBTQI persons in Chechnya, in Russia's Northern Caucus region.Â
â€œWe do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area,â€ Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Homophobia is rife in the Republic and the Chechen authoritarian leader, Ramzan KadyrovÂ (photo, right, with Putin), is known to be fiercely loyal to Putin.Â
The reports, corroborated by three leading human rights groups and a Russian group allege that the detentions continue and that the men held are undergoing torture and abuse.
BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire told NCRM that the journalist who broke the story, Novaya Gazetaâ€™sÂ Elena Milashina, who is currently in hiding, told her Wednesday: "We know about four secret prisons. Two of them in the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, one of them in Argun â€“ this is the first secret prison we discovered where LGBT people were detained, beaten, tortured and killed."
â€œWe got this information [a few] weeks ago and began to prove it. Itâ€™s pretty hard in Chechnya, especially to rescue LGBT people, because theyâ€™re a very closed network. The region is very hard on those people and they have to hide,"Â Milashina continued.
â€œThe Chechen government denied [the allegations], although they donâ€™t deny that if they found this kind of people in Chechnya they would be killed. They donâ€™t deny this, but they deny the secret camps and they have denied that they detained more than 100 people and killed some of them.â€
Earlier this month Novaya Gazeta published accounts of nearly 100 men who were detained in Chechnya, â€œin connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation.â€ The Russian independent opposition newspaperÂ also published reports that alleged about a half-dozen people had been killed, while others suffered acts of torture at the hands of government agents in the Chechen capital of Grozny, and the city of Argun,Â in what were described as special detention facilities.
Milashina has been forced into hiding after one of the regionâ€™s largest mosques declared a jihadist fatwah against her as well as the paper itself.
According to the paper's chief editor Dmitry Muratov, the Chechens' spiritual leader, Mufti Salah-haji Mezhiev, had called for retribution against the paper and Milashina at a special meeting held in Grozny, on April 3. Speaking to the Russian news site RBC, Salah-haji Mezhiev said, "Allah will punish those who slandered the whole Chechen nation and Chechen Republic's clerics. There will be retribution!"
In an open letter published after the Clericâ€™s public statement on Thursday, Muratov wrote that his journalists would continue investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya.
"We did not insult,Â neither had we the slightest intention to insult,Â the Chechen people," Muratov said,Â calling for dialogue. "We urge the Russian authorities to do everything possible to prevent actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards journalists, who are doing their professional duty." Chechens have been linked to two murders of Novaya Gazeta reporters who investigated crimes in Chechnya, Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova.Â
When the paper initially broke the story, a spokesperson for Kadyrov denied the arrests, telling the press that "such persons do not exist in Chechnya and even if so then their families will deal with them," alluding to potential honor killings of LGBTQI persons.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United Nations have issued statements condemning the situation, asking that the Russian Government investigate the situation. Russian LGBTQ activists have told NCRM that private efforts are currently underway to get LGBTQI persons out of that region.Â
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Image viaÂ The Kremlin