Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov again dismissed claims of a brutal anti-LGBTQ crackdown in the Russian republic amidst questions over the disappearance of gay singer Zelim Bakaev.
In an interview with the BBC that aired on Monday, the strongman accused LGBTQ rights advocates of fabricating reports that more than 100 gay men have been rounded up, beaten, and tortured since the campaign began last February. He referred to the numerous detailed allegations as an “invention” and said “not one person” in Chechnya has committed a human rights violation.
“That’s all an invention by foreign agents who are paid a few kopecks,” Kadyrov said. “So-called human rights activists make up all sorts of nonsense for money.”
“All those who defend human rights groupsand the gays we supposedly have in the Chechen republicare foreign agents,” the 41-year-old continued. “They’ve sold out their country, their people, their religioneverything.”
As he spoke with the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford, Kadyrov mockingly defended his record on human rights.
“You know who protects human rights here,” he said, accompanied by a forced guffaw as well as stilted chuckles from the rest of his appointed entourage. The group had been assembled to accompany Kadyrov to the opening of the first ski resort in Chechnya, a semi-independent province located to the southwest of Russia.
As Chechnya nears the one-year anniversary of the alleged extermination campaign waged against gay men in the republic, Kadyrov has continued to deny culpabilityas well as the very existence of the purge.
At least four men have reportedly been killed since local authorities began arresting people suspected to be gay or bisexual and throwing them into forced labor camps. One of those suspected to be dead is musician Zelim Bakaev, who was last seen in the Chechen capital of Grozny on Aug. 8.
Witnesses on the scene say the 25-year-old was pulled into an unidentified vehicle. He has not been seen since.
Kadyrov confirmed Bakaev had been killed in a Jan. 18 broadcast on the state-run channel Grozny TV, but deflected blame onto the slain singer’s family. The Putin ally alleged they had murdered him in an honor killing.
“His family couldn’t stop him and then called him back home, and his brothers, it seems, accused him of being [gay],” he said at the time.
Kadryov’s alleged campaign against the LGBTQ communitywhich most recently includes torching the offices of advocacy organizationshas led to formal sanctions from the Department of the Treasury. In December, the government bureau announced his assets would be frozen under the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a bill intended to punish human rights violators.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have yet to speak out against the ongoing crackdown.
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