Since February 2017, over 100 male residents of the Chechen Republic (part of the Russian Federation) assumed to be gay or bisexual have been rounded up, detained and tortured by authorities because of their sexual orientation.
These crackdowns have been described as part of a systemic anti-LGBT purge in the region. The men have been held and allegedly tortured in what human rights groups and eyewitnesses have called concentration camps.
Lithuania’s foreign minister says the Baltic nation has given refuge to two gay men from Chechnya following reports of a campaign of torture and abuse against homosexuals in the southern Russian region.
Linas Linkevicius told the Baltic News Service on May 17 that Lithuania had granted visas to “two natives of Chechnya who suffered persecution because of their sexual orientation.”
Russia is facing mounting international pressure over the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya, which Kremlin-backed regional strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has ruled with an iron hand for a decade.
Both the United States and European governments have urged Russia to investigate an alleged campaign of abuses — including torture and murder — against gay men in Chechnya that was first reported last month by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Since the report, gay men from Chechnya have given personal accounts to RFE/RL and other media of their escape from the abuse they faced in the region in the North Caucasus.
Kadyrov denies the allegations and has said that homosexuality does not exist in Chechen society.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to discuss the matter with top law enforcement officials, but also suggested the reports are “rumors.”
Just two individuals have been able to secure visas to safe countries since the revelation last month by independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that dozens of gay Chechens were being abused in Chechnya. That’s in spite of assertions from Western countries, including the US, that the events in Chechnya are revolting.
The United States has denied visas for roughly forty gay Chechens currently in hiding fearing severe persecution for their sexual identity.
“The United States continues to be concerned about the situation in the Republic of Chechnya, where credible reports indicate at least 100 men have been detained on the basis of their sexual orientation,” the State Department official said.
“Credible reports further indicate that some of those men have been tortured and even killed. The United States categorically condemns the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or any other basis.”
Human rights groups and foreign governments have called upon Russia and Chechnya to put an end to the internments.