CNN has interviewed a gay man who says he fled the Russian republic of Chechnya after authorities began rounding up hundreds of men suspected of being gay or bisexual, and tortured or killed them in concentration camps.
Russian correspondent Matthew Chance spoke with a Chechen man identified as Ahmed, who spoke on the condition of anonymity over fears of reprisal.
“My car got stopped at a Chechen police checkpoint and they asked me for my documents. They looked at them and said: ‘We are taking you,’” said Ahmed.
In an interview with another man, Chance was told the following:
Watch the report below.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has denied all allegations of detention, torture, and possible murder of hundreds of gay men in the country.
Kadyrov took to social media on Sunday and said he had met with the region’s human rights council and accused international organizations of conducting a “massive information attack … using the most unworthy methods, reality is distorted, attempts are being made to blacken our society, lifestyle, traditions and customs.”
Reported location of prison-like facility near the Chechen town of Argun
The Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta was the first to publish a story revealing details of the arrests and subsequent torturing with beatings and electric shocks, and in some cases, horrific reports that men were being forced to sit on glass bottles if they did not supply authorities with the names and phone numbers of other LGBTQ people.
Russian LGBT Network, an advocacy group based in St. Petersburg, reported receiving over 50 calls from people who were targeted or are trying to escape the region after setting up an emergency hotline to take calls from Chechnya. The organization told NBC News that it believes around 20 men have been killed by authorities. As many as 100 men were believed to have been arrested for suspected homosexuality.
“People are very intimidated and not eager to talk. They are hesitant to even talk to us,” Natalia Poplevskaia, the network’s International Advocacy Officer and Monitoring Program Coordinator, told NBC News on Tuesday. “The people who have been targeted by the campaign need some time to get back to normal life.”
President of Chechnya (left), Razman Kadyrov, President of Russia, Vladimir Putin (right)
A spokesman for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the initial reports in a statement to Interfax last Saturday, calling the article “absolute lies and disinformation.”
“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” said the spokesman, Alvi Karimov.
“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,” Mr. Karimov said.