(EDGE) Reporters from Vice News were granted permission to film inside a building in Argun, Chechnya that once functioned as a military base and reportedly was used as a concentration camp where gay men were imprisoned and tortured.
The footage comes after reports surfaced in April, claiming officials from the Russian republic were targeting men believed to be gay. In the Vice News segment, which aired on HBO, reporter Hind Hassan spoke with military officials and police, who all denied abuse against gay men. She also visited a location alleged to have held victims.
"We are currently being escorted by six [police] cars who are taking us to one of the locations where it's alleged the victims were held," Hassan says in the 9-minute clip. "As far as we're aware, we're the first foreign journalists being taken here."
Ayub Kataeve, the warden of a prison in Argun, showed Hassan around the warehouse, claiming it has not been used in some time.
"There are no footprints," he says. A few moments later, Hassan discovers footprints on the dusty floor.
"There are people who have been walking around here," she says.
"There are no signs of any window bars, no signs of door bars," Kataeve says.
Chechen officials have denied the existence of gay men in the region and Kataeve backed up that bizarre assertion.
"Imagine there are gays: Would we, the Chechens, communicate with them at all? My officers would not even want to touch people let alone beating or torturing them," he says.
Hassan later speaks with Tatiana Lokshina, the Russian program director for Human Rights Watch. She explains the decision to allow Vice's cameras and crew into Argun was granted by high-level government officials, who are eager to calm fears and avoid an international outcry. She also says that Human Rights Watch is not getting new reports of abuse from gay men in Chechnya, and she believes an investigation launched by the Kremlin made Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov stop the abuse.
Hassan also speaks with victims of the abuse, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"Many of the victims we spoke with say they still don't feel safe, even after leaving Chechnya," she says.
One of the victims describes what it's like being an out gay man in the region.
"If you start saying openly that you are gay, it's the same thing as suicide," he says.
Watch the clip below.