Russia’s justice minister has claimed they couldn’t find any gay people in Chechnya during an investigation into reports of a brutal “gay purge” in the Russian region.
Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported last year that men had been abducted and tortured as part of an alleged “purge,” which has been repeatedly denied by authorities but confirmed by human rights groups.
Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov told the United Nations on Monday that the country had investigated the allegations and claimed they can’t find any evidence to support it.
“The investigation showed that there were not any such incidents,” he said.
“There weren’t even representatives of LGBTI in Chechnya. We weren’t able to find anyone.
“Of course, what’s most important is to ensure full verification of all allegations of possible violations of human rights of the law of the Russian Federation.
“And I’m sure that in that area that work is being done, just as there are investigations being done into crimes that have been committed.”
But the St Petersburg-based Russian LGBT Network said in a damning report last month that in the last year at least 200 gay people had been detained in secret prisons throughout the region.
The group said at least thirty-six of them had been beaten and electrocuted, and the victims had alleged the abuses were “directed by the highest officials of Chechnya”.
The network’s activists said they had evacuated 119 people from the region to safety. Germany, Canada, France and Belgium are among the countries to have granted asylum to gay Chechens facing persecution in the region.
The Russian LGBT Network said in a statement they will continue to support LGBTIQ people from Chechnya and continue efforts “for the persecution to stop and the transparent and thorough investigation to be conducted.”
Russian LGBT Network board member Svetlana Zakharova said in April the country’s gay crackdown “is not over” and the group is demanding “justice for the victims in Chechnya, for their relatives and their loved ones.”
“The Russian authorities have not done anything to stop the atrocities or to punish those who are responsible,” she said at the time.
“We still don’t know exactly how many people suffered during this state-sponsored campaign to ‘purify Chechen blood.’”