A victim of the alleged “gay purge” in Chechnya has come forward.
Maxim Lapunov led a press conference on Monday in Moscow to speak about the arrest, violent interrogation and torture he faced while in the Russian republic.
The 30-year-old Siberian native was grabbed by officers on the night of March 16 and brought to a blood-soaked cell. There he was repeatedly yelled at, beaten and humiliated. Officers demanded he release names of other gay people in the republic.
“They burst in every 10 or 15 minutes shouting that I was gay and they would kill me,” he told the audience as reported by the BBC. “Then they beat me with a stick for a long time: in the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on.”
They “assured” him they were going to kill him, and told him how — but 12 days later he was releasedunder the conditions he sign a blank confession and tell no one of his incarceration.
“The only charge they made was that I was gay,” he said. “I could hardly walk. I was sure they were going to kill me, I was preparing for that.”
He stated he still has nightmares of the screams of other prisoners.
“It should not be like this. We are all people. We all have rights,” he said. “If those rights can be violated [in Chechnya], it could happen in any region. And no-one knows whose son or daughter will be next.”
Lapunov came to Chechnya in 2015. Since he was not a native, he would put no family at risk by coming forward.
This press conference comes six months after reports of alleged gay and bisexual men being persecuted in the republic. Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that over 100 assumed gay and bisexual men were detained and tortured with several reported murders.
Canada’s Rainbow Railroad is also aiding rescue efforts.
Lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons are also at risk being in the republic. The first openly transgender woman to escape Chechnya came forward in May.
The woman, who came forward on Russia’s Rain TV under the pseudonym “Leila,” reported death threats — and a stabbing in Moscow by someone who claimed to be Chechen. The person reportedly asked, “When will you stop disgracing your people?”
Despite all of these claims of abuse, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the persecutions and said there are no gay people in the republic.
“This is nonsense,” Kadyrov said on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” “We don’t have these kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”