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New wave of persecution against LGBTQ people reported in Chechnya

Warnings have spread on social media that Chechen authorities have increased their efforts to persecute LGBTQ residents of the Russian republic. Novaya Gazeta wrote that both its own reporters and staff of the Russian LGBT Network had received reports of new extrajudicial attacks, which had previously resulted in the torture and killings of numerous gay men while others fled to other areas of Russia or to Western Europe.

The news was accompanied by posts on VKontakte warning LGBTQ-identifying people in Chechnya to escape the republic and turn to any human rights groups, media organizations, or friends who might be able to help them. Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen government, has denied the existence of gay men in Chechnya.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Carl Schreck wrote on Twitter that the reports of a new purge came amid a call from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to investigate the previous wave of torture and killings in Chechnya, which was first reported by Novaya Gazeta in April of 2017. Schreck cited a document by OSCE rapporteur Dr. Wolfgang Benedek recommending that the OSCE “open an inquiry into the actions of the government of the Chechen Republic toward LGBTI people” as well as a criminal case connected to the persecution of Maksim Lapunov, who thus far has been the only victim of the purges to publicly identify himself.

Update: The Associated Press has reported that “several men and women” have been detained in Chechnya on suspicion of being gay. The AP cited activist Igor Kochetkov, who said supporters of LGBTQ rights had seen a spike in arrests since late December and that activists would release a brief report on the subject on Monday.
Update: Members of a VKontakte group for LGBTQ people from the Caucasus have asked for donations to provide food and temporary housing for two individuals allegedly siezed by authorities on January 10.