Letters to the Editor

Haaretz Reported on Abuse of Gay Men in Chechnya. Russia Was Not Pleased and Wrote Us Back

The press attaché to the Russian embassy in Israel responds to recent reports: 'The Russian system of government is of a democratic nature and we call to rely on objective and reliable data – and not on rumors and speculation'

Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russia’s Chechnya region, arrives to attend a session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Friday, June 19, 2015.
Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russia's Chechen region, June 2015. Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

In response to “Gay men in Chechnya tell of black sites where they’re tortured, some to death,” Taly Krupkin, Haaretz, April 5, 2017

Authorized official government bodies of the Russian Federation, in cooperation with the government of the Chechen Republic, investigated the claims made by journalist Elena Milashina in her articles published in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and in other Russian media outlets, which served as the excuse for the beginning of a propaganda campaign against Russia around the world, including in Israel.

The results of the investigation show that these reports were published after local governments in a few North Caucasus regions of Russia, in March 2017, rejected requests from representatives of the LGBT community to hold rallies. The reason was protests of civil society representatives and residents of the regions, who are mostly Muslims and faithful to traditional values.

In the building – which in the past belonged to the military government (address: 99B Kadyrov Street, in the city of Argun) and called in the articles a “secret prison” – is a storeroom, while a parking lot is located on the nearby space.

There are no victims of persecution, threats or violence. Neither law enforcement authorities or the [UN] Human Rights Council of the president of the Chechen Republic have received complaints on this matter. The Human Rights Council conducted an inquiry of its own and did not find even indirect evidence of such accusations.

The false reports resonated within the society and spiritual leadership of the Chechen Republic. On April 2, a Majlis (Muslim council) was held in the central Heart of Chechnya Mosque, with the participation of some 6,000 residents and community elders. On April 6, human rights activists, journalists and public figures held a discussion in Chechnya on the topic “Caucasus traditions in the reality of the world today.” The participants traveled to the city of Argun and there, on the spot, were convinced of the falseness of the claims of the existence of the alleged “secret prison.”

The head of the LGBT community in Russia, Nikolay Alexeyev, also rejected the reports. In an interview with the television station Dozhd and on the radio station Komsomolskaya Pravda, he harshly criticized Milashina and accused her of starting a propaganda campaign against Chechnya by publishing clearly false information. Alexeyev said, among other things, that in Chechnya they do not “hunt” representatives of the LGBT community. During his activities, not a single gay person from Chechnya has turned to him. He expressed the opinion that Milashina’s activities have no connection whatsoever to protecting the rights of gays, and Milashina has her own agenda.

In light of this, the Russian Embassy in Israel expresses its regret that a few Israeli citizens did not wait until the publication of the results of the objective investigation and rushed to spread factually incorrect information in the local media.

We would like to note that the Russian system of government is of a democratic nature and we are calling to rely on objective and reliable data – and not on rumors and speculation – to analyze the political developments in our country.

Dmitry Alushkin

Press attaché, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Israel