EU ambassadors have given the green light to sanctions against two Chechen officials accused of involvement in the repression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Chechnya and other individuals suspected of being opponents of the Moscow-backed leader of Russia’s North Caucasus region, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Several EU sources told RFE/RL on March 17 under condition of anonymity that Abuzayed Vismuradov and Ayub Katayev were targeted with asset freezes and visa bans under the EU's new human rights sanctions regime that came into effect in December.
The move is set to enter into force during a meeting of EU foreign ministers on March 22.
Katayev currently heads the Chechen Interior Ministry’s branch in the city of Argun, while Vismuradov serves as Chechnya’s deputy prime minister and commander of the Terek military unit that allegedly has been linked to the roundup of gay men in the region.
Rights groups have accused predominantly Muslim Chechnya of targeting sexual minorities, including the use of abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Kadyrov has denied the allegations.
Vismuradov, Katayev, and Kadyrov have already been sanctioned by the United States over their involvement in gross human rights violations in Chechnya. Kadyrov was blacklisted by the EU in 2014 over his support for Russia’s forcible annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
The EU first imposed its human rights sanctions earlier this month when it targeted four senior Russian officials over the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
Apart from the two Chechen officials, the EU will also impose sanctions on nine other individuals and four entities from China, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, and South Sudan.