Allegations of an anti-gay purge in Chechnya first surfaced in April, but now a victim has come to recount his horrifying experience.
In a press conference Monday, Maxim Lapunov recounted being arrested, locked in a blood-soaked cellar, and beaten repeatedly after named by other victims.
Lapunov, 30, was picked up by plainclothes officers on March 16 and released 12 days later on the condition that he sign a blank confession and agree not to tell anyone about his incarceration. “The only charge they made was that I was gay,” he told reporters. “I could hardly walk. I was sure they were going to kill me, I was preparing for that.”
He added that the screams of other prisoners still haunt his nightmares.
It’s believed at least 100 men have been detained by authorities, with at least three deaths, though President Ramzan Kadyrov maintains “there are no gays in Chechnya.” In July, he told Vice, “If there are any gays… take them away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any, take them.”
Lapunov came to Chechnya in 2015 from Siberia. The fact that he is not a native meant he had no family to put at risk by coming forward. Human-rights advocates say its unlikely Chechen-born victims will follow suit without assurances of their security.
He’s already been threatened to retract his claims, but wanted those responsible punished.
“It should not be like this. We are all people. We all have rights,” he said. “If those rights can be violated [in Chechnya], it could happen in any region. And no-one knows whose son or daughter will be next.”
Calls on Russia to investigate the alleged atrocities have been met with little response. Several days before the press conference, however, Kremlin human rights officer Tatyana Moskalkova confirmed that someone had come forward with specific allegations.
“I confirm there is a man, a complainant,” she told Interfax. “As soon as we complete our investigations, I can give more information.”
It’s believed Moskalkova’s statement was prompted by knowledge of Monday’s briefing.