By Andrei Shkarubo
According to Novaya Gazeta, over 100 men have been detained in Russia’s Caucasian republic of Chechnya on suspicion of being gay.
Among those detained are representatives of Chechnya’s religious hierarchy, including those close to the republic’s notorious strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov; two popular TV anchormen; and other prominent personalities, some of them believed to have been killed already.
Novaya Gazeta can confirm at least three names of those killed. The New York Times is now chasing the story.
“According to the report, the authorities set to finding and arresting closeted gay men, partly by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites….”
Gay men have begun deleting online accounts, or fleeing the region. One user of Vkontakte, a Russian social networking site, wrote that a 16-year-old boy had been detained in a village in Chechnya. He returned days later, according to the post, “all beaten, just a sack with bones.”
The reports of massive detentions and murders first appeared in social media, later to be confirmed by local police and security officers.
The terror campaign in Chechnya is believed to be a part of Putin’s recently declared preemptive fight against dissent in Russia, as well as a direct response to the Moscow-based LGBT activists’ plans to stage gay marches in several Caucasus republics. The group contends that it deliberately avoided areas with high Muslim populations.
Some opposition activists also regard the initiative as a Kremlin-inspired provocation designed to divert the public attention from the rising anti-corruption struggle, in which activists have been seized by police in their workplaces, and school students in their classes. The political crisis is further aggravated by truckers’ actions, which became particularly dramatic in Dagestan, a republic neighboring Chechnya, where Putin’s National Guards are widely used to break the strike.