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Chechnya gay purge resumes; 2 dead, 40 in custody reports say

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Fears of Russian authorities gathering up LGBT people and detaining them have resurfaced this week. The Associated Press reports that at least two people have already been killed and about 40 remain in custody.

In April of last year, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta broke the story of gay people being arrested and held in a Chechen concentration camp. 

This latest news alleges a new crackdown has begun in the Russian republic of Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region.

Similar to last year's allegation's, Chechen authorities have denied involvement and no evidence of the claims have been found by a federal investigation.

A spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov,  told the Interfax news agency on Monday that the reports are “complete lies and don’t have an ounce of truth in them.” He insists that no LGBT people have been detained.

But the Russian LGBT Network claims they have been helping the victims and on Monday said about 40 men and women have been detained since December and two have died as a result of torture. 

The detainees are believed to be kept in the same facility that was named in the 2017 reports.

First reports of the crackdown appeared on Friday, but activist did not release any details until Monday. 

“Widespread detentions, torture and killings of gay people have resumed in Chechnya,” Igor Kochetkov, program director at the Russian LGBT Network said. “Persecution of men and women suspected of being gay never stopped. It’s only that its scale has been changing.”

Kochetkov said Chechen authorities detained a social media administrator who ran an online group of LGBT people in the North Caucasus. Authorities allegedly got ahold of the contact information within his phone and began detaining people. 

Maxim Lapunov came forward in 2017 and chronicled his experiences having been a victim of a Chechen roundup. 

He says he was taken off the street in the Chechen capital of Grozny in 2017. He claims he was beaten over and over again and was only released after signing a statement admitting he is gay. He was threatened with death if he gave away details of his detention.

Lapunov is from Siberia, and filed a complaint with Russian authorities over the wave of arrests of gay people.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last month called on Russia to investigate the reports, and Lapunov’s case specifically.