News Brief

Chechnya Resumes Crackdown on LGBTQ Community

The authorities in Chechnya are again arresting members of the republic’s LGBTQ community, according to a Russian LGBTQ rights group, with reports that some may have died.

It follows a campaign of detentions that began in 2017, resulting in the reported deaths of several individuals.

The latest clampdown began in December, according to the Russian LGBTQ Network, when Chechen police detained an administrator of an online LGBTQ forum, and then used his phone to track down and arrest others.

“We know that around 40 people were detained, both men and women,” said Igor Kochetkov, program director for the St.Petersburg-based group. They were being denied legal rights, he said, and were being threatened with criminal proceedings if they did not sign “blank forms.”

Two people had died “as a result of tortures,” Kochetkov said. The independent Russian news outlet Meduza has reported even higher casualties, with one source claiming up to 20 people had died as a result of this renewed targeting of the LGBTQ community.

But so far, there has been no independent confirmation of these reports.

A spokesman for the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the reported detentions had taken place. “It’s a total lie with no grain of truth in it,” said Alvi Karimov, in an interview with Ukrainian news agency Interfax. “Not even one percent real. There were no arrests on grounds of sexual orientation in Chechnya whatsoever.”

Kadyrov himself denied he was targeting the LGBTQ community back in 2017, but in an interview with the HBO network that same year, he said that gay people in Chechnya should be removed “to purify our blood.”

The Russian authorities have largely turned a blind eye to the treatment of LGBTQ people in Chechnya, ignoring a recent report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the human rights situation there.

The human rights group Amnesty International has described information about the new arrests as “credible.”

Its Eastern Europe director, Marie Struthers, called the latest reports “absolutely spine chilling.”