The U.S. State Department surprised some on Wednesday by rebuking Russia for allowing over 100 LGBT people in Chechnya to be arrested, with many tortured and some killed.
"We are aware of troubling reports that local authorities in the Republic of Chechnya have arrested or detained more than 100 men, as well as reports that three of those detained were killed," read a statement from the State Department. "We condemn violence against any individuals based on their sexual orientation or any other basis. We urge the Russian government to conduct an independent and credible investigation into the alleged killings and mass arrests, and hold the perpetrators responsible. We were likewise deeply disturbed by local authorities statements that apparently condone and even incite violence against LGBTI persons.
We are very concerned by the widespread discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons in Russia or any society. We call on the Russian government to protect all people from discrimination and violence, and allow the free exercise of the freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion or belief."
Reports are circulating that LGBT people have been tortured and murdered via electric shocks, water hoses, and brutal beatings. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is traveling to Moscow next week and advocates are hoping he addresses the situation in Chechnya, though his close relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin could complicate matters. Chechnya is a federal republic of Russia, but is overseen by a "strongman whose regime violently suppresses dissent," (pictured, above) according to Buzzfeed.
A spokesman for Chechnyan leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied the reports of LGBT killings and torture, saying it was impossible because there are no gay people in Chechnya.
"You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic," spokesman Alvi Karimov told Interfax news agency, according to The Guardian. "If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn't need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning."