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Survivor of Gay Concentration Camp in Chechnya Comes Forward

Maxim Lapunov
Maxim Lapunov

Maxim Lapunov is the first to formally alert Russian authorities of the region's queer persecution.

A Russian gay man has come forward about abuse he suffered at the hands of Chechen authorities.

Maxim Lapunov, a native of Siberia, said he and his partner were detained in Grozny, Chechnya's capital, while he was there for work, according to the Associated Press.

At a news conference in Moscow, Lapunov recounted how he was kept in a detention facility for around two weeks. During this time, guards beat him with sticks, and forced him and his partner to fight one another.

"When I would fall, they would give me a break and then force me to stand up and continue for several more rounds," Lapunov said. And the abuse didn't end there.

"Day after day, they were telling me how precisely they want to kill me," he added.

Lapunov was released only after signing a statement declaring he was gay and promising never to speak of his experiences at the facility. If he did break his silence, authorities said he would be hunted down and killed.

The experience has haunted him -- as well as the memories of the other gay and bi detainees who were also being tortured there.

"I keep having nightmares about what I went through there," Lapunov said. "Those cries, moans, and prays for mercy have left an imprint."

"I want justice, I hope it will come," Lapunov said. "I don't want to feel unprotected in my own country, so that anyone from Chechnya could come after me and kill me at any moment."

Lapunov is the first survivior to come foward, without the cover of anonymity, to alert Russian authorities about the atrocities being committed against LGBT people in Chechnya. At least 100 gay and bisexual men have been detained and tortured this year, according to human rights organizations, and some have been killed.

Officials in Chechnya -- a semiautonomous republic within Russia -- have denied the existence of the camps as well as the hunt for gay and bi men. Activists criticize the Kremlin for its slow response.

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