Brave Victim of Chechnya’s Gay Purge Speaks Out

A Siberia-born man and alleged victim of Chechnya’s anti-gay purge has come forward, providing horrifying insight into this human rights nightmare.

Around six months after initial reports surfaced that Chechnya had begun rounding up gay men and subjecting them to interrogation, electrocution torture and extrajudicial execution, this man has bravely spoken out after fleeing Chechnya’s borders.

While other victims have told their stories to the press, Maxim Lapunov is the first to do so without hiding his identity. At a small press event in Moscow on Monday, October 16, the 30 year-old man described the abuse to reporters. 

Lapunov explained that he had been working in Chechnya for two years when, in March of 2017, he was accosted and dragged into a car by two men. From there he was taken to what he believes was a police facility where he was routinely subjected to acts that can only constitute torture.

The BBC reports:

“They burst in every 10 or 15 minutes shouting that I was gay and they would kill me,” he recalled, speaking at a small gathering in Moscow convened by human rights activists.

“Then they beat me with a stick for a long time: in the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on,” he said quietly.

“Every day they assured me they would kill me, and told me how.”

This account appears to corroborate what other men have told Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the Guardian about the horrific treatment they faced when interrogated by Chechen authorities. And many were forced to give up the names of other gay and bisexual men.

Russia has faced mounting pressure to address the Chechen crackdown since news of these incidents first began to surface in February of this year. Technically, Chechnya falls under Russian influence, but Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has openly flouted Russian laws on many subjects.

At the same time, the Kremlin doesn’t seem to have made any concerted efforts to stop this anti-gay persecution — despite high-ranking officials, including President Vladimir Putin, stating that an investigation was necessary.

Meanwhile, Kadyrov’s government has denied all accusations of human rights abuses. Infamously, when these charges were brought to Kadyrov in July of this year, he claimed that no gay men lived in Chechnya.

The Independent recounts:

“We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays.”

In case some homosexuals should have slipped through the net, Mr. Kadyrov advised transporting them to Canada. “Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

Roughly 79 people have reportedly been helped out of Chechnya to escape this persecution, but many more LGBT people remain at risk.

As such, Lapunov’s public account is crucial to achieving justice. While corroborating his accusations is difficult because of the nature of the abuse, it appears to tally with the stories of other victims. 

And what these individuals allege clearly falls under massive human rights abuses that contravene European and wider conventions. Igor Kalyapin of the Committee to Prevent Torture has even gone so far as to assert that this abuse meets the legal definition of a crime against humanity. While this may seem obvious, the threshold for that legal standard remains high.

So what can we do about the Chechnya situation?

Renewed pressure must be put on Russia to investigate. Advocacy groups  had gone quiet over the past few months, as they wanted to give Russian authorities the opportunity to start an investigation. But, to date, no transparent investigation has occurred. While Russia officials continue to discriminate against the LGBT community, they have repeatedly stated that the government does not condone such violence. Now is the time for it to prove that.

Furthermore, European powers and the UK must speak out with urgency. Silence on this abuse condemns LGBT people in Chechnya to what has been labeled “Nazi-era” treatment. We cannot allow this torture and discrimination to continue.

We also must safeguard victims like Lapunov who are willing to speak out, because their testimony is vital to bringing light to this terrible issue. And providing amnesty and asylum claims for people fleeing Chechnya is equally critical.

Take Action!

Over 80,000 concerned Care2 members have signed this petition calling on the UN to immediately investigate Chechnya’s treatment of LGBT people. Add your voice today, and show the world that LGBT people matter.

Photo credit: Warren Wong via Unsplash.

57 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R24 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R24 days ago

ty

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Brandy S
Brandy Sabout a month ago

Ignorance and intolerance, what a great combo.

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Laura R
Laura Rabout a month ago

Purify our blood??? OMG! That sounds so much like that of Nazi doctrine.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Dabout a month ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Dabout a month ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Dabout a month ago

Thank you so very much.

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Sophie M
Sophie Mabout a month ago

Thank you for this.

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Mike R
Mike Rabout a month ago

Very brave, previously signed.

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA Rabout a month ago

"To purify our blood"??! In 2017.? Good grief...

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