As we have been told repeatedly, there are no gays in Chechnya. None at all. Zilch. Ne rien. Absolutely none at all. There can’t be a round-up of gay men, because there are none in Chechnya.
And six prisons are full of them.
Reports had initially centred on two jails in the villages of Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt. But Novaya Gazeta, the respected Russian newspaper that made the initial claims, now says there are a further four prisons illegally holding men for their sexual orientation, reports the Daily Mail.
The men, who face torture in jail, are only released once their families offer bribes to police.
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Hundreds of Britons held a protest outside the Russian Embassy against the reported torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya, where up to 100 men are said to be held in concentration-style camps and at least three men have died.
Michael Salter-Church, co-chair of Pride in London, said: “It sends a shudder down the spine to hear about concentration camps in 2017. Russia’s abuses cannot be ignored.”
Demonstrators draped in rainbows shouted “close the camps” and laid pink flowers while passing traffic beeped their horns in support.
Gay men are being tortured and murdered in Chechen prisons, detainees have alleged. Detainees told Novaya Gazeta they were tortured and electrocuted while they were imprisoned, and others described seeing prisoners beaten to death.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesman called it “absolute lies and disinformation” and suggested there are no homosexuals in the Muslim-majority region. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” he told the Interfax news agency.
Victims told Novaya Gazeta they were beaten with sticks, forced to sit on bottles and had their hands electrocuted.
“Several times a day we were taken out and beaten,” said one. “Their main aim was to find out your circle of contacts — in their minds if you are a suspect then your circle of contacts are all gay. They kept our phones switched on. Any man who calls or texts is a new target.”
Over the past week, men ranging in age from 16 to 50 have disappeared from the streets of Chechnya. At the weekend, a leading Russian opposition newspaper confirmed that the Chechen authorities are arresting, and alleged that they are killing, gay men.
Abuses by security services in the region have long been a stain on President Vladimir Putin’s human rights record, but until now gay people had not been targeted on a large scale.
The unknown number of gay men were detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” said newspaper Novaya Gazeta, citing Russian federal law enforcement officials, who blamed the local authorities.
Get on the phone again, Elton.
A Russian mayor has declared his town a ‘gay-free zone’. ‘They won’t get here, even from the West,’ boasted Sergey Davydov, who runs Svetogorsk, which is on the frontier with Finland.
The former military commissar has been branded a ‘clown’ and an ‘idiot’ for supposing he has no homosexual people among a population of 15,000.
Since his announcement, two LGBT activists were detained seeking to enter Svetogorsk after travelling from St Petersburg. The pair were ‘expelled’ from the town because special permits are needed to enter because it lies on the border, said Davydov.
Regional MP Vladimir Petrov, who represents Slantsy district, said: “I understand Svetogorsk town is free from gays, because this is what the mayor, a colonel of the Russian army, has said. And who can we trust more in this country if not an officer?”
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Gay Activist notes that Aleksei Korolyov, 29, pictured left, and 33-year-old Bulat Barantayev, right, are thought to be the first LGBT people ever to stand for election to Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly. Both are gay rights activists who strongly object to Russia’s gay “propaganda” law.
Both activists are running for the pro-Europe People’s Freedom Party. Neither Mr Korolyov or Mr Barantayev believe they have any chance of being elected, but hope that by standing they will progress gay rights.