In Moscow a press conference was held with Maksim Lapunov, the first person to speak openly about the persecution of gays in the Chechen Republic without demanding anonymity, the BBC Russian service reports.
Lapunov, a native of the Omsk province, said that he lived for two years in Chechnya. He claims that on March 16 he was arrested and held in a basement for 12 days. He has already written to the Russian Investigative Committee demanding a case be filed against the people who oppressed him.
“I was approached by two people in plain clothing; they grabbed me and dragged me toward the car. I cried out, called for help, but they pushed me into the car. Then they took me to a police department, I assume. It was late at night. They brought me to the chief – he broke my phone, which they had already taken from me when they put me in the car. The main charge directed against me was that I am gay,” Lapunov explained.
He claims that, under threat of torture, he was coerced into giving the name of another person, who was also arrested and severely beaten.
“A short time later, I was also beaten. They accused me of being gay, and that people like me had to be killed. According to what they said and did, I assumed that they would kill me. Five or six hours after I was arrested, they burst into the room with tremendous debasement and insults. They started hitting [me] with sticks. I don’t know exactly how long it lasted, but it was very long...” Lapunov continued.
He was let out on March 28, on condition that he would not tell anyone what had happened, Human Rights Watch representative Tatyana Lokshina asserted. Before he was released, Lapunov was forced to sign papers whose content he knew nothing about. Afterwards he was taken to a station and sent home.
The first article about the mass persecution and even murder of gays in Chechnya was published by Elena Milashina from Novaya Gazeta. As early as April, she wrote about the mass arrest of Chechens in connection with their untraditional sexual orientation. The Chechen authorities deny this, claiming that there are no gays in the republic.