Journalists investigating the abuse of gay men in Chechnya have made a gruesome discovery.
Respected newspaper Novaya Gazeta originally reported that gay men were being held in two concentration camp style prisons in the region.
Reports initially centred on two jails in the villages of Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt.
However journalists from the area now say they have uncovered evidence of a further four prisons, meaning there are at least six prisons in the region holding people because of their sexual orientation.
The newspaper also claims that the men, who face torture in jail, are only released once their families offer bribes to police.
Editors of Russian newspaper have since said they fear that the “entire staff” on the paper are at serious risk after they uncovered the gay purge in Chechnya.
The paper’s staff have said that hundreds of gay men had been detained and some killed in the region of Russia.
Since breaking the story the staff have received serious threats to their lives.
In a statement released by the editors of the paper, they detailed a meeting of over 15,000 people headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s leader, reportedly accused the newspaper of libel and declared it and the staff “enemies of our faith and of our country”.
It comes after Britain’s deputy foreign secretary revealed a terrifying threat from President Kadyrov while taking an urgent question on the situation in parliament.
Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, told parliament: “Human rights groups report that these anti-gay campaigns and killings are orchestrated by the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.”
“He has carried out other violent campaigns in the past, and this time he is directing his efforts at the LGBT community.”
“Sources have said that he wants the [LGBT] community eliminated by the start of Ramadan.”
The minister added: “Such comments, attitudes and actions are absolutely beyond contemptible.”
PinkNews has spoken to the Foreign Office, who verified that President Kadyrov had made the threat in local Russian language media, seen by the UK government.
Ramadan starts on May 26 this year, and is widely celebrated in Chechnya, which is a predominantly Muslim area.
These allegations have been supported by human rights groups, and led to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, UK and US governments to call for the Kremlin to investigate.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s deputy, who is gay himself, labelled the reported abuses of gay men as “utterly barbaric” and “despicable” in a strongly worded statement to the Commons.
However a spokesperson for Vladimir Putin has said the Russian president has no reason to believe the attacks are genuine.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s Press Secretary, claimed that investigators have found no evidence to support reports of the purge, which originated in respected newspaper Novaya Gazeta, according to Associated Press.
The Chechen republic is a federal subject of Russia, but has its own government and court system.
Petition: Stop the persecution of gay men in Chechnya
This week, Putin had a meeting with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who told the Russian president not to believe the “provocative” articles.
He also accused international organisations of conducting a “massive information attack using the most unworthy methods, reality is distorted, attempts are being made to blacken our society, lifestyle, traditions and customs.”
by Benjamin Butterworth
Source – PinkNews