U.N. urges action on gay killings in Chechnya as Kremlin denies the problem

Left: A man poses outside the Russian Embassy in London, following reports of alleged torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya, Wednesday April 12, 2017. Right: In this Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 file photo, Dmitry Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia. Thomas Hornall/PA via AP and AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel, File

In the face of growing international concern about reported detentions and killings of gay men in Chechnya, Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman says the Kremlin does not have confirmed information on the targeted violence.

The respected Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported this month that police in the predominantly Muslim republic rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and that at least three of them have been killed.

Chechen authorities have denied the reports. But the United Nations‘ High Commissioner for Human Rights and prominent international organizations have urged the Russian government to investigate the reported abuse.

But Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Friday: “We do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area.”

Novaya Gazeta said in a statement on Friday that it fears for the safety of its journalists after exposing the persecution of gay men in Chechnya, a Muslim-majority republic of Russia.

Novaya Gazeta referred to a large gathering in Chechnya’s main mosque earlier this week which threatened those reporting the story with “reprisals.” The paper’s editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, called on authorities to investigate the threats.

The Russian office of Amnesty International on Friday echoed the concern about the gathering of Chechen elders and clergymen. It reportedly took place several days after the newspaper article and threatened retaliation against those who “insulted the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men.”

Amnesty International says it “considers this resolution as a threat of violence against journalists.”

In Washington, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement on Friday, condemning the persecution and abuse of gay men in Chechnya.

“The human rights abuses perpetrated by Chechen authorities and the culture of impunity that surrounds them means that these hate crimes are unlikely to ever be properly investigated or that the perpetrators will see justice,” Biden said.

The former vice president also called on the current U.S. administration to live up to its promises “to advance human rights for everyone by raising this issue directly with Russia’s leaders.”

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