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It remains unclear whether President Donald Trump brought up the topic of anti-gay abuses happening in the Russian republic of Chechnya when he met face-to-face with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany on Friday morning.
The Associated Press reports that the two leaders met for two hours, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Tillerson told reporters that Trump raised concerns over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, something that Putin has denied.
According to Tillerson, the discussion about the election accusations was “robust and lengthy.” The two leaders also discussed a possible ceasefire agreement in Syria. But the Secretary of State did not say whether he or the president had raised concerns over reports from human rights watchers that hundreds of gay and bisexual men are being kidnapped, detained, and tortured in secret facilities inside Chechnya.
Inquiries from Metro Weekly to both the State Department and the White House as to whether the Chechen situation was addressed during the meeting went unanswered as of press time on Friday evening.
Both Trump and Tillerson have been criticized by human rights advocates and LGBTQ organizations, which had previously urged them to bring up the anti-gay abuses in Chechnya. The State Department previously issued a statement condemning the reports of anti-gay persecution, but Tillerson told a congressional committee last month that he never raised the issue when he met with Lavrov.
LGBTQ advocates had previously penned open letters to Trump, asking him and Tillerson to condemn the anti-gay abuses and call on Putin to allow investigations into the alleged crimes to move forward. Russian officials have previously denied that such abuses are even taking place, citing the lack of complaints from alleged victims that have been lodged with local Chechen authorities, who are accused of spearheading the purge.
For his part, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has called the allegations “absolute lies” and has even previously said the accusations cannot be true because there are no gay people in the majority-Muslim republic.
But human rights activists say that the detentions, which ceased for a bit after they were initially reported by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in April, have once again resumed. According to Novaya Gazeta, at least 26 men have been killed, most of them via “honor killings” at the hands of family members after being outed once they are released from detention.
Some LGBTQ advocates say they’re not surprised Trump and Tillerson failed to broach the subject with their Russian counterparts.
“The silence from President Trump on Chechnya is not shocking, as his administration has time and again ignored the LGBTQ community since taking office,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. “LGBTQ rights are human rights, and it’s crucial that the leadership of United States aids in the effort to protect LGBTQ acceptance across the globe. President Trump must speak out now in support of human rights and against the anti-LGBTQ violence in Chechnya.”
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