Earlier this year, popular Russian singer Zelimkhan Bakaev went missing while visiting the Chechen capital of Grozny for a family wedding.
It’s been reported that he was bundled into a car hours after arriving in the Russian republic on 8 August, and hasn’t been heard from since.
Last month, a chilling report claimed he had been murdered by authorities in Chechnya as part of their crackdown on LGBT+ people.
“He arrived in Grozny and was picked up by police within three hours,” an insider claimed. “Within ten hours he was murdered.”
Chechen officials have denied any involvement of the disappearance of Bakaev, and have suggested that he has simply just left the country.
However, campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) have now said: “There is little doubt he was targeted because of his sexual orientation.”
Crime Russia reported last month that Bakaev was found in Germany after he posted a YouTube video telling his fans that he has left the country. People gave question if the man in the video is actually the singer, though.
“There is absolutely nothing to do in Grozny or Moscow. Because there are a lot of assholes. Here people are absolutely different – you go out, everyone smiles at you. Absolutely different outlook,” the guy who resembles Bakaev says in the clip.
There was also no indication that the video was actually recorded in Germany, and people have pointed out that the room he’s in is furnished with Russian furniture and that there’s a Russian energy drink on the table that isn’t sold in Germany.
HRW have claimed the video isn’t what it seems, too.
“Bakaev’s friends told us that he ‘doesn’t look like himself’ in those videos: for a man who takes meticulous care of his appearance, he is ruffled, with a sloppy haircut, and seems to have lost a lot of weight,” they stated.
“Moscow should go beyond window dressing, and properly answer questions about Bakaev’s fate and whereabouts.
“Germany could also help by publicly affirming that if Bakaev is in Germany, that he can safely seek asylum there, and will receive protection from German authorities to contact his family and speak publicly if he wishes.”
The Kremlin and Chechen government have both repeatedly denied allegations that gay men are being detained and tortured.
That’s despite Chechnya’s president, Ramzan Kadyrov, having publicly declared that he wanted all LGBT+ people in the country to be eliminated by May 26, which marked the start of Muslim holiday, Ramadan.
Following increased international pressure, Russia was forced to investigate Chechnya and this reported ongoing abuse, but as of yet the republic has received no consequences for the treatment of its LGBT+ citizens.
Last month, it was reported that Canada have given asylum to 22 gay refugees in Chechnya over the past three months, helping them to escape the anti-gay purge that took place in the Russian republic.
Germany, Lithuania and the Netherlands have also granted asylum to Chechen people on humanitarian grounds.