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Minister: Lithuania Gives Refuge To Gay Men From Russia's Chechnya

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius

Lithuania's foreign minister says the Baltic nation has given refuge to two gay men from Chechnya following reports of a campaign of torture and abuse against homosexuals in the southern Russian region.

Linas Linkevicius told the Baltic News Service on May 17 that Lithuania had granted visas to "two natives of Chechnya who suffered persecution because of their sexual orientation."

Linkevicius later retweeted the news agency's tweet, saying he had confirmed that visas had been issued to the two men.

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

Both 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 last month 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 in the region in the North Caucasus.

Kadyrov denies the allegations and has said that homosexuality does not exist in Chechen society.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to discuss the matter with top law enforcement officials, but also suggested the reports are "rumors."

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