Despite the growing evidence of mass targeting of gay men in the region, a spokesperson for Chechnya’s Russian-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied the reports, insisting that gay people do “not exist” in the republic.
The spokesperson added: “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.”
This is a position that appears to be shared among Chechnyan people. The Guardian reports that Thursday saw a protest of up to 15,000 people outside a mosque in Chechnya's capital city, Grozny. The crowd gathered to protest the supposed “lies and libel” of Novaya Gazeta for suggesting that there are gay men in Chechnya.
They called on the government to pass a resolution "The centuries-old traditions of Chechen society, the dignity of Chechen men, and our faith have all been insulted, and we promise that those behind it will face reprisals, whoever they are and wherever they are.”
Journalists with Novaya Gazeta have admitted that they fear for their safety as there have been threats of reprisals. Elena Milashina, the journalist who first broke the story, said: “My sources tell me there’s a serious danger, for me personally and for every employee of Novaya Gazeta.” Meanwhile, an Amnesty International petition calling on Russian’s prosecutor general, Aleksandr Ivanovich Bastrykin, to investigate the reports had reached over 95,000 signatures by Thursday morning (April 13). Wednesday night (April 12) saw a protest at the Russian embassy in London over the situation in Chechnya. More stories: Hundreds protest over Chechnya’s detention and torture of gay men Human rights group confirm reports gay men in Chechnya are being detained in anti-gay purge