(WB) The U.S. Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that condemns the ongoing crackdown against LGBT people in Chechnya.

U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the resolution earlier this year. The U.S. House of Representatives in June unanimously approved a nearly identical resolution that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced.

“With unanimous passage of this resolution, the U.S. Senate just sent a powerful message,” said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a press release.

Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus.

Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in April reported Chechen authorities have arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation — or perceived sexual orientation — since the beginning of the year.

Novaya Gazeta reported at least three of these men died after their arrest, while others have been beaten and tortured and sent to secret prisons. Chechen authorities have also reportedly begun to target women who they suspect are lesbians.

The Kremlin has claimed it has launched an investigation into the allegations, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to downplay or even dismiss these reports. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close Putin ally, over the summer described the allegations as “nonsense” and claimed during an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that “we don’t have any gays” in his republic.

The State Department told the Washington Blade in September that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed concern about the ongoing crackdown in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The Human Rights Campaign on Oct. 18 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the State Department for “all records” relating to Tillerson’s letter to Lavrov. A State Department spokesperson told the Blade last week it does not comment on FOIA requests.

President Trump has yet to publicly condemn the crackdown.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in April said the U.S. is “disturbed” by the situation in Chechnya.

Hillary Clinton on Saturday specifically referenced Chechnya during her speech at the HRC National Dinner in D.C. Canadian Prime Minister, French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders have also condemned the crackdown.


— Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBQ Media Association.