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Igor Kochetkov: The Russian LGBT Network has evacuated more than forty homosexuals from Chechnya [Nastoyashchee vremya]

posted 29 May 2017, 10:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 May 2017, 12:04 ]
18 May 2017 

By Renat Davletgildeev and Тimur Оlevsky

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Nastoyashchee vremya]

Igor Kochetkov, the chair of the Russian LGBT Network, which provides legal assistance to gay Chechens and facilitates their flight from the republic, told Nastoyashchee vremya that more than eighty people have turned to the group for help since the publication of Novaya gazeta’s investigation into the persecution of homosexuals in Chechnya.

“Since April 1, when we were first contacted, we’ve gotten in touch with more than eighty people. Of those eighty people, more than forty have made it out of the republic. I am able to say that nine of the people for whom we secured passage out of Chechnya have left Russia altogether. The absolutely necessary process of evacuating them from Russia has begun, and this makes us very happy,” said Kochetkov.

Nevertheless, the organization has encountered bureaucratic problems while filing documents [on behalf of the persecuted men], problems that have prevented some of those escaping persecution from receiving asylum abroad.

“Western countries lack procedures for such a situation, and are naturally apprehensive about taking in some refugees—God forbid they turn out to be terrorists—so the visa process is moving at a grinding pace, frankly,” Kochetkov explained.

Recently, Russian ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova passed on details to the Investigative Committee about homosexuals in Chechnya who had gone missing and were believed to have been persecuted for their sexual orientation. In the view of the chair of the Russian LGBT Network, the persecution of gays in Chechnya and in Russia more generally owes to a 2013 law that banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships.”

“The federal government, in this way, made it clear to all that gays in Russia are second-class citizens. After all, the law prohibits discussing gay people as social equals,” Kochetkov said. “Chechnya is part of Russia. The fact that things that have not happened in Europe since the Second World War can happen on Russian soil—in a country that is a member of the Council of Europe—should make all Russians think, gay or not, and people serving in government.”

On May 17, it emerged that Lithuania had granted visas to two Chechens persecuted for their sexual orientation, news announced by Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkiavichius, who also noted that Lithuania had become one of the first EU countries to take in Chechen homosexuals and to consider granting them asylum.

Lithuanian society is far from tolerant, and ranks last in all European lists ranking gay rights in EU countries.

On April 1, Novaya gazeta published an investigation into the persecution and murder of gay men in the Chechen Republic. Anonymous sources in the security services and in government told the newspaper about more than one hundred men had been detained on suspicion of homosexuality. According to the newspaper, at least three men had been killed. Vladimir Putin has promised to ask Russia’s prosecutor-general and interior minister to get to the bottom of the situation. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Alvi Karimov, his spokesman, have declared that there are no gay men in Chechnya to begin with.

Translated by Lincoln Pigman