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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 7, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 14
US State Department calls on Russia to investigate murders of Gay men in Chechnya

Over 100 said to be killed
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US State Department calls on Russia to investigate murders of Gay men in Chechnya

Over 100 said to be killed

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US State Department has called on Russia to investigate reports that police in Chechnya have arrested, tortured, or murdered more than 100 Gay men in the past few weeks.

The reports first surfaced on April 1 when New York Times reporter Andrew Kramer wrote, 'Over the past week, men ranging in age from 16 to 50 have disappeared from the streets of Chechnya.'

Kramer's source was the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta. On April 4, the stories were confirmed by Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog group.


'The number of sources and the consistency of the stories leaves us with no doubt that these devastating developments have indeed occurred. LGBT Network in Russia opened a special hotline to provide emergency support to those who find themselves in immediate danger.'

All sources said that Chechen police were involved in the attacks. After an unsuccessful attempt to secede from Russia and two wars with its much larger neighbor (1991-1996 and 1999-2000), Chechnya is now ruled by what is considered a puppet government allied with the Putin regime in Moscow.

Consequently, the State Department addressed itself to the Russian government.

'We urge the Russian government to conduct an independent and credible investigation into the alleged killings and mass arrests, and hold the perpetrators responsible,' an unnamed State Department official said in a statement.

'We were likewise deeply disturbed by local authorities' statements that apparently condone and even incite violence against LGBTI persons. We are very concerned by the widespread discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons in Russia or any society. We call on the Russian government to protect all people from discrimination and violence, and allow the free exercise of the freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion or belief.'

A statement from an unnamed official - rather than one attributed to the Secretary of State or one of his deputies - implies that the US government gives the matter at hand something less than top-level importance.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Moscow on April 11 and 12. The State Department declined to say if he will bring up LGBT issues during his visit.

Russian LGBT rights activists, meanwhile, said that any international attention would be helpful. Svetlana Zakharova of the Russia LGBT Network told BuzzFeed News that international pressure is necessary to get a response from Russian authorities.

'We believe that all kinds of international pressure is beneficial now, including diplomatic pressure,' Zakharova said. 'The main hope is that killings, tortures, and kidnappings will stop and will be investigated properly by the responsible authorities.'

Chechen authorities flatly denied any involvement in the killings.

'You cannot arrest or repress people who just don't exist in the republic,' Chechen government spokesperson Alvi Karimov told the Interfax news agency.

'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,' Karimov added.

Russian government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Putin government was not aware of the situation but that law enforcement authorities would look into the media reports. Peskov also suggested that people who are abused by law enforcement officials should 'file official complaints' and 'go to court' to resolve their problems.

According to Novaya Gazeta, the killings began when GayRussia.ru - a Moscow-based LGBT group - applied for permits to hold Pride parades in a number of cities in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya.

'In Chechnya, the command was given for a 'prophylactic sweep,' and it went as far as real murders,' Novaya Gazeta reported.

According to the report, the authorities set out to find and arrest closeted gay men, often by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites.

'Of course, none of these people in any way demonstrated their sexual orientation publicly - in the Caucasus, this is equal to a death sentence,' the newspaper wrote of those detained in the sweep.

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