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U.S. Government Sanctions Chechen Leader Over Brutal Anti-LGBTQ Purge

Chechnya’s anti-gay leader has been formally sanctioned by the United States after numerous LGBTQ people were arrested, beaten, and tortured in the Russian republic.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department placed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov on a list of officials accused of abuses under the Magnitsky Act, according to a report from the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The law, which signed by President Obama in 2012, allows the U.S. government to freeze the financial assets in order to punish foreign despots and violators of human rights.

Those named on the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) are also prevented from banking with institutions located within the United States.

“We will continue to use the Magnitsky Act to aggressively target gross violators of human rights in Russia, including individuals responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other despicable acts,” OFAC Director John Smith said in a press release.

Since February, Kadyrov has rounded up more than 100 gay men, who were subsequently thrown in detainment centers likened to Nazi concentration camps. Maxim Lapunov, who spent 12 days in what he describes as a “blood-soaked cell,” was repeatedly flogged in the “legs, ribs, buttocks and back.” When he would double over from the extreme pain, the guards would stand him up and beat him again.

At least four people have died as a result of their imprisonment, including a popular gay singer.

The Chechen leader has repeatedly denied the anti-LGBTQ purge, even while vowing to eliminate the semi-independent province’s queer and trans citizens by Ramadan. Kadyrov told HBO’s Bryant Gumbel that Chechnya doesn’t “have any gays” in a July interview. If there were gay people in the republic, he urged them to move to Canada.

The 41-year-old dictator dismissed the sanctions on his Instagram account.

“The U.S. Treasury has nothing better to do, just like a cat who itches in one place,” Kadyrov wrote on Wednesday. “And so, I was banned from entering America. And am I going to apply for a visa, do I have assets in U.S. banks? I said it before, but again I will repeat it for the especially forgetful that I would not have gone to the U.S.A. if all the foreign currency reserves of the country were promised to me as a prize.”

The statement was posted with a video of the leader weightlifting.

The Treasury Department, which added four other Russian officials to its sanctions list on Dec. 20, took a stand against Kadyrov’s actions nearly 10 months after the crackdown first began back in February. President Donald Trump has failed to condemn the anti-LGBTQ purge.

photo by Jenny Matthews/In Pictures via Getty Images

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