Vladimir Putin finally approved an investigation into the anti-gay purge in Chechnya, but at least one Russian official is certain there’s nothing going on: Dmitry Alushkin, the press attaché for the Russian embassy in Israel, wrote a letter to Ha’artez after the magazine reported on the situation.
Alushkin (above) insists what experts are calling a concentration camp is nothing more than a storeroom.
“Authorized official government bodies of the Russian Federation, in cooperation with the government of the Chechen Republic, investigated the claims made by journalist Elena Milashina in her articles published in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and in other Russian media outlets,” he writes, dismissing the allegations as merely “a propaganda campaign against Russia.”
Alushkin’s account matches international media accounts in at least one regard: He agrees that talk of harassment and imprisonment started after LGBT advocates in the North Caucasus asked to hold rallies and were rejected.
But that’s where the similarities end: Novaya Gazeta says there are at least a half-dozen prisons being used to torture suspected homosexuals, including a former military installation in Argun.
Alushkin says nyet.
“In the building—which in the past belonged to the military government (address: 99B Kadyrov Street, in the city of Argun) and called in the articles a ‘secret prison’—is a storeroom, while a parking lot is located on the nearby space.”
“There are no victims of persecution, threats or violence,” he adds. “Neither law enforcement authorities nor the [U.N.] Human Rights Council… have received complaints on this matter.”
That would be the same law enforcement authorities accused of conducting the persecution, threats and violence.
The day after Novaya Gazeta published its first report, Alushkin claims, a Muslim council was convened in Grozny, drawing “6,000 residents and community elders.” Four days later, public figures, journalists and activists allegedly traveled to Argun to investigate for themselves.
“And there, on the spot, [they] were convinced of the falseness of the claims of the existence of the alleged ‘secret prison.’”
Alushkin also claimed Russian LGBT activist Nikolay Alexeyev has refuted that gay men are being targeted in the region, though his only proof seems to be that no one has come to Alexeyev for help. (And Alexeyev is on pretty shaky ground these days: He claims Russia’s gay-propaganda ban is a good thing for gays, and he’s prone to anti-Semitic screeds against the “Jewish mafia.”)
The letter ends with Alushkin reminding us that “the Russian system of government is of a democratic nature,” and that people should rely “on objective and reliable data, not on rumors and speculation, to analyze the political developments in our country.”