Authorities in Chechnya have renewed detentions of gay men and women in the Russian republic, Russia’s leading investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported Friday.
Citing posts on Russian social media network VKontakte, Novaya Gazeta, which broke the story of the Chechen crackdown in April 2017, reported that several men and women were recently detained by authorities and are seeking help. Igor Kochetkov, the head of the Russian LGBT Network that has helped Chechens affected by previous pogroms confirmed to the Associated Press that there have been renewed arrests since December but did not specify how many.
“I ask everyone who’s still free to take this message seriously and run away from the republic as soon as possible,” reads a post from the group on VK in Russian, referring people to a hotline set up by the Russian LGBT Network.
In a statement emailed through a spokesperson, Human Rights Campaign global director Ty Cobb said, “Human rights violators in Chechnya must be held accountable and be brought to justice. Lives are hanging in the balance.” Cobb also called on the White House to take action and help end the persecutions.
It has been estimated that over a hundred people were arrested, detained, and forced to flee from the previous gay pogroms in Chechnya. Victims described inhumane conditions and brutal beatings by government forces. One survivor, who found a new home in Canada, told BuzzFeed News he was beaten so badly his bruises had a rotting smell by the time he was released.
“They administered electric shocks, but they mostly hit me with a pipe,” he said. “My legs were swollen. I couldn’t take a normal breath in or out because of the pain in my back. Overall, they liked to hit victims who were skinny, smaller, more attractive men.”
Speaking to Russian investigative outlet RBC, the press secretary for Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, denied that new detentions are taking place.
“All of this, to speak in literary language, is lies and disinformation,” the spokesperson said. “There are no prisons or places of detention in the Chechen Republic that are not part of the [Federal Penitentiary Service].”
Previously, Kadyrov insisted there are no gay people in Chechnya.