The Washington Blade has confirmed a report that indicates several men and women were recently detained in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation.
Igor Kochetkov, a prominent Russian LGBTI rights activist, on Friday told the Associated Press the detentions began late last month.
Kochetkov did say how many people were detained or whether they have been released. A source in Moscow who asked the Blade to remain anonymous confirmed Kochetkov’s account.
“We can confirm the information of new detentions in Chechnya,” said the source in an email.
Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus.
Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in April 2017 reported Chechen authorities had arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Dec. 20 released a report that documents extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses against LGBTI people in Chechnya.
The report notes the international outrage over the crackdown “largely stopped” a third wave of systematic persecution of LGBTI Chechens, but “there are still new cases as recent as September and October 2018.”
“In fact, the persecution has never stopped, but the intensity was different from time to time,” said the source in Moscow with whom the Blade spoke. “We have information that since the end of December there is an ‘intense’ period.”
Activists on Monday are expected to release more information about the arrests.
Chechen president sanctioned under U.S. law
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government have either downplayed reports about the anti-LGBTI crackdown or have simply dismissed them. The U.S. has sanctioned Kadyrov and two Chechen officials under the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law named after a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison following his investigation of a $230 million tax fraud scheme.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and Heather Nauert, who President Trump has tapped to succeed her, have publicly condemned the crackdown.
The U.S. and the 15 other OSCE countries last fall invoked its “Moscow Mechanism” that authorized a fact-finding mission to investigate the anti-LGBTI crackdown and other human rights abuses in Chechnya. Trump, who remains under scrutiny over his involvement in the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, has not publicly commented on the issue.
The Blade has reached out to the Russian government for comment.