President Ramzan Kadyrov is doubling down on his claim that there no gay men living in Chechnya, the Washington Post reports.
In a new interview with HBO reporter David Scott for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, which is covering Kadyrov’s mixed martial arts involvement, the Kremlin-backed leader denies reports that gay men are being detained and tortured in the predominantly Muslim Russian republic—simply because they do not exist.
“This is nonsense,” says Kadyrov, laughing off allegations of a gay purge. “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada.”
“Praise be to god,” Kadyrov continues. “Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”
Kadyrov also has some strong words for reporters and activists who have been covering LGBT rights in Chechnya. “They are devils,” he says. “They are for sale. They are not people. God damn them for what they are accusing us of. They will have to answer to the almighty for this.”
These appear to be Kadyrov’s first comments to a Western news outlet in response to reports of a gay purge in Chechnya.
A spokesman for Kadyrov previously denied their campaign of terror with a similar sentiment, telling a Russian news agency, “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.”
Reports began surfacing in early April that authorities in Chechnya were detaining, torturing, and even murdering gay men. Last month footage surfaced from inside one of the alleged concentration camps where gay men say they were imprisoned.
Svetlana Zaharava of the Russian LGBT Network has been contacted by LGBT Chechens who fear for their lives. “They call us and say they’re scared, or their friends are missing, or they’ve managed to escape and they need help,” she says. “It’s almost impossible to be an open LGBT person in Chechnya—that is why people are so stigmatized, and why the gay victims’ parents wouldn’t cooperate with law enforcement [in investigating the disappearances]. It’s because they’re ashamed.”
While the Russian government has done little to address the crisis in Chechnya, world leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have decried the atrocities. The U.S. State Department recently called reports of the anti-gay pogrom “troubling,” but Donald Trump has yet to address the issue.
Logo has joined forces with MTV and HRC to urge the White House to help stop this injustice. Click here to join the call for an official statement from the president on the ongoing attacks on Chechnya’s LGBT community.
Watch a highlight from the Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel interview below.