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The leader of Chechnya has denied gay men are being murdered in the region, but claims he would defend families who kill their gay relatives.

In an interview with HBO, the leader of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov said he would defend “honor killings” of gay men by their families. Honor killings are illegal in both Russia and Chechnya.

“If we have such people here, then I’m telling you officially, their relatives won’t let them be, because of our faith, our mentality, customs and traditions,” he said. “Even if it’s punishable under the law, we would still condone it.”

Kadyrov spoke to HBO to promote Chechnya’s sports industry, but the topic briefly shifted to the persecution and murders of perceived gay and bisexual men in the region. David Scott asked about “the alleged roundup, abduction and torture of gay men in the Republic” during the interview.

“We don’t have these kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any take them to Canada,” he replied. “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,” he said.