As the detention and abuse of gay men in Chechnya intensifies, many members of the LGBT+ community are fleeing the Russian republic.
One person who has escaped the country is a young man who calls himself Arthur, and who is currently on the run in Western Europe.
“The most difficult thing that could happen to a person is to be gay in Chechnya,” he told Sky News.
“You can be easily killed and no one would be punished – ever. Even your relatives would be happy.”
Arthur explained that he has been forced to conceal his sexuality his whole life, as Chechnya is a conservative and predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia.
When the Chechen government first started to detain gay men back in December, Arthur fled with moments to spare.
“I was saved by just a few minutes,” he revealed. “But the policemen called (my telephone) and told me to come back to the house. My relatives also asked me to come back to the house.
“(The police chief) said I should stand in front of him because I have betrayed him personally, because I am gay, a gay Chechen. I think he also wanted to get information from me about other friends.
“I understood the situation very well. I didn’t come back.”
However, the authorities told him that if he didn’t return, they would take one of his younger family members instead.
“I was selfish because I decided to save my own life and I feel sorry about it now because if they had killed me everything would be over,” Arthur said.
“Now I am going through hard times. I am trying to hold it all together.”
It comes after chilling reports that Chechen authorities are telling parents to murder their gay sons, or they’ll do it themselves.
The Kremlin and Chechen government have both denied allegations that gay men are being detained and tortured in the region.
That’s despite Chechnya’s president, Ramzan Kadyrov, having publicly declared that he wants all LGBT+ people in the country to be eliminated by May 26, which marks the start of Muslim holiday, Ramadan.
Novaya Gazeta first reported in March that around 100 gay men had been rounded up by police and detained in what is widely being referred to as a modern-day ‘concentration camp’.
Moreover, Human Rights Watch later confirmed the horrific reports, adding that the information coming through was “consistent” with “numerous trusted sources” they had spoken to on the ground in Russia.