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Russian Foreign Minister Denies Persecution of Gay Men in Chechnya


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is the latest of several officials claiming the widespread reports aren't true.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that authorities have seen no proof that gay men in Chechnya are being persecuted, but that the country is concerned about "any human rights violations," the Associated Press reports.

Lavrov said this despite reports coming from the Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, that stated that over 100 men have been detained and tortured in concentration camps, while three have been killed.

Lavrov delivered his statements on Chechnya during a news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who raised the issue with the foreign minister. Chechnya is a semiautonomous republic within Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously denied the reports about gay men being rounded up and detained. Monday Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov stood behind Lavrov's statements.

"We have no reason not to trust the head of the republic until there are actual complaints in this regard, not abstract, anonymous but actual complaints," Peskov said.

Human rights activists say that it is unlikely that a gay man in Chechnya would publicly admit that he experienced torture in a concentration camp, as they would face cultural homophobia and family rejection. However, several who have escaped the republic have come forward with their stories.

President Trump has yet to publicly comment on the issue, but Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has called for an investigation. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Joe Biden have both called on the Trump administration to act and protect human rights in Chechnya.

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