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Gay man tortured in Chechnya says man missing in open murder case was actually imprisoned with him

Maxim Lapunov, the only individual to have openly identified himself as a victim of the homophobic purges in Chechnya, told the Radio Liberty project Kavkaz.Realii that a man from Volgograd Region thought to have been missing since March 2017 was in fact imprisoned in Chechnya with him.

Andrey Kobyshev had been declared a missing person, and a murder case had been opened to investigate his disappearance. Kobyshev had been working in Chechnya as a massage therapist since November 2016 when he disappeared. His relatives said police failed to investigate his disappearance properly, opening a case months after his disappearance and suspending it in June of 2018.

Lapunov said he was certain it was Kobyshev he had seen in the prison where Chechen law enforcement officials tortured and sometimes killed gay residents of the Northern Caucasian region. He added that Kobyshev often refused food and water and lost significant amounts of weight during his imprisonment. Cellular data indicated that Kobyshev’s mobile phone was located near the place where Lapunov said he was held for an extended period of time in March of 2017.

Reports of gay men and lesbians being systematically imprisoned, tortured, and killed in secret Chechen prisons first emerged in a Novaya Gazeta report in April 2017. Maxim Lapunov made his story public that fall.

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