A Russian man has come out as one of the gay and bi men being detained, abused, and in some cases murdered in Chechnya.
A number of men have shared their stories about being taken to secret prison sites, where they were beaten and forced to reveal the identity of other gay and bi men. So far those men have remained in shadows, and have not given their names, in order to protect their safety.
Maxim Lapunov, 33, said in a news conference in Moscow on Monday that he was taken by authorities in March while selling balloons in Grozny.
“The only charge they made was that I was gay,” he said.
He explained the awful conditions, noting it sent him into a kind of panic.
“One part of the jail cell was already blood-soaked. I was already stressed.”
“Then they started to beat me, and every 10 to 15 minutes they would come in and yell, ‘He’s gay and people like him should be killed.’ I felt from all they said and acted (that) they would kill me in the end,” he said.
The Russian newspaper that broke the story, Novaya Gazeta, published the names of 27 men it said were killed by authorities for being gay or bisexual.
The Russia LGBT Network, which has been helping men flee the area and find asylum in other countries, has said that only some of those on the list were gay or bi.
Tanya Lokshina, from the group, was at Lapunov’s side during the press conference, and she praised his courage and noted the importance of his decision.
“Russian authorities at different levels made numerous statements about the fact that not a single victim filed an official complaint and that made it easy for officials to dismiss the complaint as rumors,” she said.
Lapunov had no success getting his claims investigated by the Russian government, so he decided to go public.
“They put my face to the wall. They beat me on the back of my legs and hips,” said Lapunov. “I would collapse and they would give me a chance to catch my breath before telling me to get up again. And it would start again.”
While many are finding asylum in countries like Canada and France, he has decided not to relocate, despite the risk.
“I don’t want to leave Russia. I was born here,” he said. “Why should I run from my country?”