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Russian human rights chief slams claims of 'anti-gay purge' in Chechnya as provocation

"What exactly is this? Are there indeed victims or does someone plan to capitalize on this?" Tatyana Moskalkova said
View of Grozny City business centre from the Heart of Chechnya mosque Valery Sharifulin/TASS
View of Grozny City business centre from the Heart of Chechnya mosque
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, April 20. /TASS/. Russia’s human rights commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on Thursday the complaints about alleged persecution of gay men in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya may be a provocation.

"I have suspicions that this is a provocation and these are hyped-up complaints," Moskalkova said while reporting on her activity in 2016 at the State Duma’s committee for developing civil society, issues of public and religious groups. "What exactly is this? Are there indeed victims or does someone plan to capitalize on this?"

Moskalkova said according to some claims "more than 100 homosexuals went missing in Chechnya," but no such cases have been registered with the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and Chechnya’s prosecutors.

The commissioner also said "ardent human rights activists" have already examined two prisons in Argun, a town in the Chechen republic near the capital Grozny, where torture centers were allegedly set up. "They visited the site, checked every nook and cranny there: this does not correspond to reality," she said.

Moskalkova earlier told reporters that the investigation was set back by the fact that there were no particular names. The journalists promised to provide her with this information, but so far she hasn’t received anything.

On Wednesday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said at the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that media publications on the alleged detentions and killings of civilians in Chechnya were a provocation. "I feel awful to speak about this. They claim we're arresting and even killing people. They even named one of the victims." In the final run, the man who had allegedly been killed was found safe and sound at home.

On April 1, Novaya Gazeta published an article on its website entitled "Honor Killing" which referred to some alleged abductions and possible killings of Chechen residents over their non-traditional sexual orientations or on suspicion of being gay. The paper cited anonymous sources in law enforcement agencies and also victims, without revealing their names.

The Civil Society and Human Rights Council under Chechnya’s leader said it had scrutinized the article and found no confirmations at all, even indirect ones, that the alleged incidents actually took place. A corresponding statement by the regional council was published on the website of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on April 4.

Last week, Novaya Gazeta said on its website that the editors had been threatened. Some of these threats, it said, were contained in a resolution adopted at a meeting between Chechnya’s clergy and public figures at Grozny’s central mosque on April 3. The resolution was devoted to Novaya Gazeta’s article about the alleged persecution of Chechnya’s residents for their non-traditional sexual orientation. One of the resolution’s items, the daily said, contained "open and outright calls for violence." The same item called for "retribution against instigators."

Religious Affairs Adviser to Chechnya’s leader, Adam Shakhidov, said the journalists had misinterpreted the Chechen clergy’s resolution regarding retribution against Novaya Gazeta. He told TASS that the daily would be sued in court for slander shortly.