The head of the Kremlin human rights council is calling for a "thorough check" of reports that authorities in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya have been arresting and killing homosexuals.
Mikhail Fedotov was referring to an April 1 report in the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that said more than 100 men had been detained in Chechnya recently on the basis of the assumption that they were gay, and that at least three of them were killed.
Fedotov said that he had spoken to colleagues in Chechnya who told him they did not have information confirming the report.
"But the signal is so monstrous that, without a doubt, it demands a thorough check," he said.
The Novaya Gazeta report cited a range of unnamed sources.
In rejecting the report, Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's spokesman made remarks that added to the concerns of human rights activists.
"You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic," spokesman Alvi Karimov said on April 1. He implied that relatives of gay men would kill them.
"If there were such people in Chechnya, the law enforcement organs wouldn't need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no return," he said.