An anti-gay campaign in the Russian republic of Chechnya has led to authorities rounding up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality.
The Novaya Gazeta reports that at least three men have been killed.
A spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (pictured), who is a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied that any such activities have taken place.
He further suggested that there are no gay people in the country at all.
“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman Alvi Karimov said in a statement obtained by Radio Free Europe.
“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
A spokesman for the region’s interior ministry told the Russian newspaper RBC that the report was “an April fool’s joke”.
The newspaper claimed dozens of men between the ages of 16 and 50 had been detained “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such”.
The mass detention of gay men is said to have followed attempts by gay rights groups to stage pride parades in cities across the country.