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The U.S. has denied visas to gay and bisexual men attempting to escape the semiautonomous Russian republic of Chechnya, where many of their number have been and tortured in concentration camps, reports BuzzFeed News.
At least 40 Chechens are in hiding throughout Russia, Russia LGBT Network spokeswoman Svetlana Zakharova told BuzzFeed News. Since the reports of persecution of gay and bi Chechen men, only two have been granted visas to safe countries, she said. Several men have escaped on their own without visas.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News,: "As visa records are confidential under U.S. law, we are unable to discuss individual cases." The spokesperson added, "The United States continues to be concerned about the situation in the Republic of Chechnya, where credible reports indicate at least 100 men have been detained on the basis of their sexual orientation."
Zakharova said "negotiations have been difficult" with countries that could safely harbor Chechens, and Tuesday her group was notified that "the U.S. is not going to issue visas to people from Chechnya."
Russian media first reported in April that at least 100 gay and bi men had been detained and put in camps. At least three men have died. Chechen authorities continue to deny that gay and bi men are being persecuted because they claim that gay people do not exist in Chechnya. Officials with the Russian Embassy to Israel recently said they had completed an investigation and found that "there are no victims of persecution, threats or violence." Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed, under pressure, to have his government investigate.