U.S. Lawmakers Call On Russia To End Alleged Killings Of Gay Men In Chechnya

A bipartisan group blasted the "human rights atrocities" taking place in the Russian republic.

A bipartisan group of House representatives called on Russia’s government to condemn the alleged persecution of gay men in the country’s Chechnya region with a resolution this week.

H. Res. 351, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and was introduced Wednesday, called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to investigate the troubling claims of abuse and murder of gay men in Chechnya.

The claims initially emerged in April when a Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, reported that at least 100 men had been detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation.” Three of those men, the report found, had possibly been killed.

A second Novaya Gazeta article, published April 4, cited a source who claimed that the Muslim-majority region’s anti-LGBTQ efforts included Nazi-style concentration camps.

Ros-Lehtinen, whose son identifies as transgender, said U.S. lawmakers “must pressure Russia to uphold its international commitment to prevent any further abuses from happening while perpetrators are brought to justice” in a statement. “For over a month, hundreds of gay or perceived to be gay Chechens have been arrested, many have been tortured, and some even killed,” she said. “This bipartisan resolution sends a clear message to Chechnya and Russia authorities and any oppressor that the U.S. will not stand idly while these human rights atrocities are being committed.”

No word yet on how Russia will respond to the resolution. The Novaya Gazeta reports have been repeatedly dismissed by Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” Kadyrov’s spokesman, Alvi Karimov, is quoted by The New York Times as saying.

Ros-Lehtinen was joined by 52 other representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties as co-sponsors of H. Res. 351. The resolution passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday by a unanimous voice vote.

In a statement, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) called reports of the alleged torture “chilling,” and noted, “We are witnessing the unfolding of a horrific tragedy and it’s long past time that the Kremlin start protecting its own citizens—all of them—regardless of sexual orientation.” Putin, he added, must “respect and promote the dignity of all persons and provide safe haven for all those fleeing such horrific persecution.”

Elected officials and celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Matt Bomer and Billy Eichner have spoken out against the allegations in the weeks since the news first broke. The resolution itself follows U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s push for an investigation into the Chechen abuse claims, which she called a “violation of human rights.”

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