Unlike some other heads of state, Angela Merkel is unafraid to discuss LGBT rights with the president of Russia.
The German chancellor, during a rare trip to the Eastern European nation, revealed that she discussed the reported torturing and killing of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya with Vladmir Putin. Merkel also addressed last weekend's anti-Kremlin demonstration, the largest in five years, in which hundreds were arrested.
“I have, in my talks with the Russian president, indicated how important is the right to demonstrate in a civil society and how important the role of [nongovernmental organizations] is,” Merkel said at a Sochi press conference, reports The New York Times.
“I also spoke about the very negative report about what is happening to homosexuals in Chechnya and asked Mr. President to exert his influence to ensure that minorities’ rights are protected,” she added.
Merkel's remarks follow pressure from LGBT activists, who staged a 48-hour vigil outside her office in the hopes she would bring up the Chechen atrocities. Reports indicate that at least three have been killed and around 100 more gay and bi men have been rounded up in concentration camps for torture and interrogation in Chechnya, a semiautonomous republic within Russia.
Russia has yet to formally acknowledge these horrors. In fact, Russian police on May Day detained LGBT activists who were protesting the human rights abuses.
At the press conference, Putin addressed the recent mass arrests.
“Our law enforcement and judicial organs act within the framework of the laws that exist in Russia and will continue to act in that way, observing order and discipline," he said.
The Times reports that Merkel and Putin made little progress in their talks, which centered on economic and policy differences over Ukraine and Syria.
President Trump has yet to condemn the Chechen atrocities, leading Hillary Clinton to declare, "We may not ever be able to count on this administration to lead on LGBT issues."