VICE News has obtained exclusive access to the Chechen prison where gay men were allegedly rounded up and tortured.
The footage is believed to be the first time that a camera has been allowed inside the Argyll Prison since the allegations of abuse against the LGBT+ community hit international headlines.
According to respected Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who broke the story back in early April, hundreds of suspected gay men have been captured and 26 are reported to have been killed.
The chilling new video shows the now disused former police centre empty, with officials insisting it isn’t currently – nor has it ever been – part of an unprecedented ‘anti-gay purge’ by Chechnya’s law enforcement.
Ayub Kataev, Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Argun and warden of the prison, remains firm that there’s been zero involvement in the torture of gay men on the site.
“Imagine if there are gays… would we, the Chechens, communicate with them at all?” he told journalist Hind Hassan. “My officers would not even want to touch such people – if they exist – let alone beating or torturing them.”
Ayub later took her on a tour of the camp, pointing out the different rooms and locations while still insisting that such acts couldn’t have taken place there.
He also asked soldiers to validate his claims that no torture had taken place on the camp – when questioned on camera if they’d ever been told to “arrest some kind of gays”, they replied: “No.”
Please note: Some may find the below video distressing.
However, what’s most chilling are the first-hand accounts of life as a gay men in the region – and how even after taking themselves out of the area, the danger doesn’t leave.
“When this wave of actions against gays started, my own uncle took me [to the police station],” said one gay Chechen. “He started beating me, slapping my face and neck, kicking and beating me. He even shaved my hair off.”
Another gay man, who has fled Chechnya, said: “Since olden times, [homosexuality] is a shame that has been washed out only in blood. If you start saying openly that you are gay, it’s the same thing as suicide.
“My family is everything to me; I can’t imagine losing them. But now I have to leave them and go away.
“I have been here for a month. During that time, I haven’t felt safe because they can come after me any time. They can find out where I am, take me away, and I will end up lying dead somewhere.”