As Chechnya’s president Ramzan Kadyrov opened the Russian republic’s first ski resort this past weekend, he was questioned once again on his human rights record.
Last year, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazetta broke the story that up to 26 men had been killed as part of an alleged anti-gay purge in Chechnya.
There were also chilling reports of young gay men being murdered by their own family members, as authorities told parents to kill them – or they’ll do it themselves.
A 17-year-old male was reportedly murdered by his own uncle, after being pushed from his 9th floor balcony.
The Kremlin and Chechen government have both repeatedly denied allegations that gay men are being detained and tortured in the region, but Kadyrov has never kept it a secret that he is staunchly anti-LGBTQ.
Kadyrov has maintained that all of the reports were false because in Chechnya, “we don’t have these kinds of people here.”
That’s despite numerous gay and bisexual victims who have fled the country coming forward to speak of torture and being detained in what has been described as modern-day concentration camps.
However, once again Kadyrov has avoided being questioned on his poor human rights record.
After being confronted by BBC journalist Sarah Rainsford, Kadyrov insisted that “not one person” in Chechnya commits human right violations.
“That’s all an invention by foreign agents who are paid a few kopecks,” he claimed. “So-called human rights activists make up all sorts of nonsense for money.”
He added: “Let them work somewhere else! All those who defend human rights groups and the gays we supposedly have in the Chechen Republic are foreign agents.
“They’ve sold out their country, their people, their religion!”
When the journalist pushed for an answer on the reported abuse of LGBTQ citizens in Chechnya, the leader’s security guards stepped in block the camera and avoid any further confrontation.
It comes after the head of a Chechen human right group called Memorial was arrested last month.
Oyub Titiyev is facing 10 years in prisons have authorities found marijuana in his car.
The activist wrote an open letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin saying that the illegal substance had been planted in his vehicle.
“If I somehow confess my guilt… it will mean I have been forced through physical coercion or blackmail,” he wrote.
Memorial had been working on confirming reports of extrajudicial killings after a group of men went missing, with many saying they had been taken away by security forces.
“We tried to follow up with legal procedures but the relatives were threatened and terrified,” Oleg Orlov, a senior member of Memorial said. “Perhaps that’s the work that annoyed the authorities.”
Memorial is one of the last human rights groups left in Chechnya, but they find themselves in an increasingly difficult and dangerous position.
“With no human rights groups left, people will have no protection,” Oleg added.
“Anything at all could be done to them and there would be no-one to complain to. No-one to tell.”