A respected Russian newspaper says it has uncovered information that police in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya have rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and that at least three have been killed. The Saturday report in Novaya Gazeta said it had confirmed the information with sources in the Chechen police and government, but gave no details, reports the AP. "In Chechnya, the command was given for a 'prophylactic sweep' and it went as far as real murders," read the report. Adds an activist with the International Crisis Group, "It came from too many sources not to be true."
The report was denied by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's spokesman, who suggested there are no homosexuals in the Muslim-majority region. Ali Karimov said, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti, "it's impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic." Further, per the Guardian, "If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return." The Kremlin-backed Kadyrov is widely accused of extensive human rights violations. He has brought Islam to the fore of Chechnya's daily life, including opening what is called Europe's biggest mosque. (Read more Chechnya stories.)