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Russian Gay-Rights Group Says It Helped 114 People Flee Chechnya

Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the LGBT-Network
Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the LGBT-Network

A Russian group that defends LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights says it has helped 114 people flee Chechnya to avoid persecution over their sexual orientation or that of their relatives in the North Caucasus region since April 2017.

LGBT-Network chairman Igor Kochetkov told reporters on April 3 that the 114 people included 41 people who were detained and tortured in Chechnya and 30 were family members who faced danger.

Fourteen men were approached by police who threatened them and tried to force them to collaborate to locate other gays, and seven men contacted LGBT-Network to seek help after their acquaintances were detained, Kochetkov said.

Seven others were threatened by their own relatives, Kochetkov said, adding that three gay men were abducted by their relatives and one of them is believed to be dead.

Russia has faced international pressure over the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya, which Kremlin-backed regional strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has ruled with an iron hand for over a decade.

The United States and European governments have urged Russia to investigate an alleged campaign of abuses -- including torture and murder -- against gay men in Chechnya that was first reported in April 2017 by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Since the report, gay men from Chechnya have given personal accounts to RFE/RL and other media of their escape from the abuse they faced.

Kadyrov denies the allegations and said in 2017, "We don't have those kinds of people here. We don't have any gays."

Based on reporting by Rosbalt and Novaya Gazeta