My two articles about mass repressions against people of “non-traditional sexual orientation” in Chechnya were published in NewsLanc on April 5 and April 19 (http://newslanc.com/tsukerman-anti-gay-repression-in-chechnya/ and http://newslanc.com/tsukerman-chechen-gay-scandal/ ).
The scandal about these repressions was started by a publication in the Russian newspaper “Novaya Gazeta” (New Newspaper). The reaction of Chechen authorities to the publication was emotional and aggressive, they kept repeating that “there were no gays in Chechnya…” and so no one could “arrest or repress people who just don’t exist.”
The special session of the High Assembly of Islamic theologians and leaders of Chechen public opinion had published the resolution:
“The publication in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta is an absolute lie and slander, discrediting the honor and dignity of Muslims, residents of Chechnya, citizens of the Russian Federation… In view of the insult to the centuries-old foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of Chechen men, as well as to our faith, we promise that retribution will overtake all instigators of this insult, wherever and whoever they are, without a statute of limitations.”
The resolution had looked like a call for vengeance against the newspaper. In the past a lot of political assassinations had followed such threats from Chechen leaders.
The Chief Editor of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitri Muratov, published an appeal to the Mufti of the Chechen Republic Salah-hajji Mezhiev calling for a peaceful“dialogue with representatives of Chechen society and clergy.”
The Mufti turned down the proposal and Russian government officials made no effort to protect the newspaper’s office. “Novaya Gazeta” continued its research in Chechnya and kept publications of the discovered materials. As a result the office of the paper received two envelopes containing threats and mysterious white dust last week. Russian police confiscated the envelops for investigation. Nevertheless nothing was undertaken to protect the paper.
The paper asked Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova for help, inviting her to personally meet the victims of the Chechen repressions whose materials were published. It is not yet known how Moskalkova is going to react to the invitation. Meanwhile she made a statement that she has suspicions that Novaya Gazeta publication was a provocation and a false denunciation.
Novaya Gazeta has a track record that causes readers trust the materials presented there. The victims are all in contact with the newspaper and ready to meet with the government human rights representatives.
On April 23, one of the prominent opposition newspapers The Moscow Times published an article entitled “Putin Will Be Forced to Act on Chechnya’s Anti-Gay Purge. But international pressure is the key to saving lives.”
The first signals coming out of Kremlin were positive. Putin’s spokesman Dimitry Peskov said: “We don’t know much about what is going on here, but law enforcement agencies will look into it.”
On April 22, Putin met with Kadyrov and the issue was discussed. The meeting was shown on TV news. Putin looked unhappy and enraged. Kadyrov denied all the accusations of Novya Gazeta. As a proof he mentioned the name of a man, who as he believed was reported by Novaya Gazeta as killed, but in fact was alive. Novaia Gazeta never mentioned that name. Obviously Kadyrov used information provided by his own sources.
After Putin’s meeting with Kadyrov, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated: “Once again I repeat: we have no reason to believe that Kadyrov could present some incorrect information to the head of state”.
It seems Putin cannot afford ruining his relationships with Kadyrov.
The Chief Editor of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitri Muratov, said in his interview by radio Echo of Moscow:
“I do not think that Ramzan Kadyrov considers himself a head of a small subsidized region. I think he considers himself a military leader and his country an army… that will be the vanguard of any Putin’s battle, as it was during the 2008 war in Georgia. Chechen volunteers were also fighting in Donbas, the second battalion of Chechen military police was sent to Syria. And that’s why Kadyrov wants to be judged according to the laws of wartime, and he himself also judges everything according to the laws of wartime.”
Can Putin risk severing his relationship with Kadyrov over gay rights in Chechnya? Not defending gay rights wouldn’t reduce Putin’s rating in Russia.
Of Russians, 37% want to isolate homosexuals from society and 21% to liquidate them.
This month a prominent Russian billionaire and orthodox religious activist Herman Sterligov, opened his new “Christian orthodox” health food store “Bread and Salt” in Saint Petersburg. In the near future, Sterligov is planning to open four more branches of Bread and Salt and by the end of the year their number should reach 15.
In the past Sterligov openly boasted that he does not hire representatives of sexual minorities, and also he called for the killing of “sodomites”, referring to the words of the apostle Paul.
Representatives of the LGBT community appealed in vain to the Prosecutor General’s Office to initiate criminal proceedings against Sterligov.
The new Sterligov’s store has a notice in the widow: “entrance is forbidden to pederasts”. It hasn’t bothered passer-bys so far.