LGBT rights activists were arrested Monday during a May Day demonstration in St. Petersburg for protesting the human rights abuses against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, a semiautonomous republic within Russia.
A cameraman for Reuters witnessed Russian police pulling the activists into police vehicles. OVD-Info, a human rights group, reported that at least 17 people had been arrested, reported Reuters.
"I was waving a rainbow flag [representing gay rights], and was shouting 'Kadyrov should go to the Hague'," Igor Kochetkov, a Russian LGBT rights activist who was one of the many detained, told Reuters.
Kochetkov confirmed he was one of 10 detained at one station in St. Petersburg while another group of the same size had been sent to another location.
Alexei Nazarov, an activist who took part in the protest, said that it is difficult for gay and bisexual men and their families to speak out against the human rights abuses happening in Chechnya.
"It is hard for them to say 'Hello I am Chechen and I am persecuted in Chechnya' because they have relatives there. Unfortunately there is pressure not only on gay people but also on their families. And it is very dangerous," Nazarov told Reuters TV.
A Russian newspaper reported that at around 100 gay and bisexual men have been detained and put in camps in Chechnya. At least three men have died. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies that gay and bisexual men are being persecuted in the region, although many survivors have contradicted that claim.
Survivors of the camp have spoken out about the abuse and torture they faced when they were detained and put in camps because of their sexuality.