Last summer, popular Russian singer Zelimkhan Bakaev went missing while visiting the Chechen capital of Grozny for his sister’s wedding.
It was reported he was bundled into a car hours after arriving in the Russian republic on 8 August, 2017, and hasn’t been heard from since.
A few months later, a chilling report claimed he had been murdered by authorities in Chechnya as part of their crackdown on LGBTQ 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 denied any involvement of the disappearance of Bakaev, and 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.”
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has now spoken about Bakaev’s disappearance, not only denying any responsibility but suggesting that he was killed by his own family for being gay.
“His relatives, who do not keep up, who are ashamed to admit that; now they say that Kadyrov has taken [Zelimkhan Bakaev],” Crime Russia reports him as saying on the evening news of the Grozny TV and Radio Company.
“Where is your evidence? Have you heard me say on television that I need to catch him? Or how did the police officers arrest him?
“The family could not stop him, and then they called home, and the brothers apparently put in for his homosexuality… There are no men in the family to admit that they did it? They know perfectly well who their relative is,.”
Crime Russia reported back in October that Bakaev was found in Germany after he posted a YouTube video telling his fans that he has left the country. People questioned 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.
Human Rights Watch 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 in modern-day concentration camps.
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.
It was reported last year that Canada gave asylum to 22 gay refugees in Chechnya, helping them to escape the anti-gay purge.