Russia’s justice minister has claimed government officials were unable to find any evidence of LGBTQ people in Chechnya.
Alexander Konovalov told the United Nations on Monday: “The investigations that we carried out did not confirm evidence of rights’ violations, nor were we even able to find representatives of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”
The investigation comes over a year after 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.
Chilling reports of young gay men being murdered by their own family members followed, 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 Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has never kept it a secret that he is staunchly anti-LGBTQ.
Kadyrov 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.
He has maintained that all of the reports were false because in Chechnya, “we don’t have these kinds of people here.”
A 30-year-old man named Ruslan came forward to speak of his experience during the anti-gay purge, and revealed that he was outed to his family when his daughter-in-law discovered text messages he had sent his boyfriend on his phone.
His own family swiftly took away his passport and phone, and locked him in his room for a month.
“In Chechnya there was a big cleansing of gays. People working for Kadyrov (Chechnya’s leader) would target one (gay) person and through blackmail and beating would force him to surrender others,” Ruslan told BBC Russian.
“Some were caught, taken to the cellars, beaten violently, others were not found. Relatives sometimes did not even look for them, as they wanted to wash away the shame.”
Ruslan finally managed to escape his family home, borrowed a phone from a passerby to call his boyfriend, and made it to Moscow.
These accounts of the persecution LGBTQ people face in Chechnya comes as the Human Rights Campaign give repeated calls for Donald Trump to publicly condemned the Russian Republic’s actions.
They want the US president to “end his deafening silence” on ongoing crimes against people suspected of being LGBTQ in the country.
“These atrocities constitute crimes against humanity…None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice,” they put in a letter to the White House.
“Russia has refused to launch an investigation, and those who carried out these abuses face no repercussions for their actions.
“You must condemn these crimes against humanity and call on Russia to conduct an investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.”