Chechnya leader claims region 'never had' gay men, just 'fake' Chechens

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The Kremlin leader broke his silence on the scandal on Friday, telling Russia's human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova that he will intervene.

During a meeting with Ms Moskalkova, the president referred to the reports as "rumours, you could say, about what is happening in our North Caucasus with people of non-traditional orientation", using a euphemism for gay people.

Survivors have also told journalists and human rights organizations that the people kidnapping and torturing them were police officers - meaning reports of abuse would be submitted to the same authorities that perpetrated it.

More than 100 gay men were arrested and tortured, at least two killed by relatives and one died in custody, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported in April.

Although Kadyrov said said that he and the republic were open to investigation, he insisted that they had not received any "official reports" of the abuse of LGBT people.

"Chechen society does not have the phenomenon called non-traditional sexual orientation: its people have lived for thousands of years according to different rules laid down by Allah", Kadyrov said.

Merkel called on Putin to act and he has apparently asked Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman and the Interior Minister to investigate.

Duncan said his sources had told him that Kadyrov - a strongman ally of Russian President of Vladimir Putin - wants the gay community in Chechnya, where the majority of the population are Caucasus Muslims, to be "eliminated" before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on May 26.

In addition to the deaths, survivors report beatings and torture, as well as being forced to disclose the names of other gay men in the region.

As ILGA-Europe points out, a brutal campaign against gay and bisexual men has been sweeping through Chechnya in the past weeks.

This week, the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden wrote to their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to press for an immediate end to any persecution of gay men in Chechnya.

Ms Moskalkova asked Mr. Putin to set up a working group that would deal with the problem from Moscow, rather than in Chechnya, where much of law enforcement is considered loyal to Mr Kadyrov foremost.