A Russian LGBT rights group on Monday reported a new wave of persecution against gay people in Chechnya, in which it says around 40 people have been arrested and two killed.
Chechen authorities immediately denied the claims which come two years after an international outcry when gay men said they had been tortured by law-enforcement agencies in the majority-Muslim Russian republic.
“Since the end of December 2018, there has been a new wave of detentions of men and women in Chechnya, related to their presumed or real sexual orientation,” the Russian LGBT Network said in a statement.
“According to the network’s information, about 40 people have been detained… and at least two people have been killed,” it said.
Igor Kochetkov of the LGBT Network said police were confiscating documents to ensure those arrested in the crackdown could not flee the republic, as others have done previously.
Those arrested “are threatened with fabricated criminal cases against them or their relatives, they are forced to sign blank forms,” he said.
A spokesman for Ramzan Kadyrov, who has ruled the republic with Kremlin-backing for more than a decade, rejected the report.
“This is a complete lie… there were no detentions on the grounds of sexual orientation in the Chechen Republic over the period mentioned,” Alvi Karimov told the Interfax news agency.
Amnesty International however said the reports were “credible”.
“We are horrified by reports that at least two people have died from torture-inflicted injuries,” Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.
“With lives in jeopardy, there is an urgent need for an international response to protect gay and lesbian people in Chechnya,” Struthers added.
She described the reports as “spine-chilling”.
Russian authorities opened an inquiry after the reports of the persecution of gay men in Chechnya in 2017.
But the LGBT Network said no meaningful investigation had been carried out.
Homosexuality is legal in Russia but discrimination is rife.
A controversial “gay propaganda” law brought in by Russia in 2013 officially forbids the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors but effectively bans gay rights activism.