Merkel calls out Putin over Chechnya anti-gay purge


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly addressed the persecution of gay men in Chechnya in a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders met on Tuesday in Sochi, Russia. It was Merkel’s first trip to the county since 2015. After the meeting, Merkel spoke out about human rights concerns in Russia as she and Putin faced the media together.

Merkel commented that she had received “negative reports about how gay people are treated in Chechnya”. She explained that, “I asked President Putin to utilise his influence to protect these minority rights…”

Merkel also expressed concerns over a recent court ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and raised the issues of freedom of expression and assembly.

On Monday, around 10 activists were arrested in St Petersburg after they staged a peaceful demonstration against the crackdown on LGBT people in Chechnya.

Markel said she pointed out to Putin “once more how important demonstration rights are in a civil society [and] how important the role of NGOs are…”

The Russian president did not respond to the chancellor’s comments about the crisis in Chechnya at the press conference.

According to reports, verified by numerous sources and victims, the Chechen authorities recently rounded up around 100 gay men, who were then detained in secret facilities, tortured and in some cases killed.

There have also been claims that the families of some victims were urged by the authorities to murder their LGBT relatives in so called “honour killings”. It is unclear to what extent the persecution is still ongoing.

Last month, Sir Alan Duncan, Deputy Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, told the UK Parliament that, “Sources have said that [Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov] wants the [LGBT] community eliminated by the start of Ramadan”.

Chechenya is a semi-antonymous Russian republic and Kadyrov is known to be an ally of the Russian president. Despite his influence, Putin has stayed silent on the issue.

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