The Human Rights Campaign lit up the side of the Helsinki building on Sunday calling out LGBTQ “crimes against humanity” in Chechnya ahead of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump’s summit.
The LGBTQ advocacy group projected sliding messages on the side of the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, where the two men met on Monday. The messages blasted Putin for knowing of LGBTQ people being abused in the Russian Republic of Chechnya and Trump remaining silent on the reports.
The slides read: “Trump and Putin: Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Chechnya. Investigate LGBTQ persecution in Chechnya. Bring the perpetrators to justice. The whole world is watching. Silence is deadly.”
HRC said in a statement that “more than  LGBTQ people have been rounded up, tortured, and abused — and as many as 20 have been murdered.”
Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, told a crowd of protestors in Helsinki Sunday that Trump has ignored human rights violations in Chechnya and that the LGBTQ advocacy group was there to elicit a response.
“Trump has unconscionably turned a blind eye to some of the worst anti-LGBTQ atrocities in a generation, including monstrous attacks on gay and bisexual men in Chechnya,” said Cobb. “HRC is here in Helsinki to demand Donald Trump end his deafening silence, publicly condemn these Chechen crimes against humanity, and call on Putin to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Witnesses and victims reported a “purge” of gay men in Chechnya last year, with numerous reports of gay men being kidnapped and held in prisons and makeshift concentration camps, as well as men being attacked, tortured, blackmailed and even killed for their sexuality.
Human Rights Watch corroborated the reports, saying they were “consistent” with information they’d received from sources in Russia. Chechnya’s Interior Ministry dismissed initial reports of the treatment of gay men as an “April fools’ joke.” A press secretary for Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, refuted that there were even any gay people in Chechnya.
While the Trump administration has not condemned Russia’s treatment of LGBTQ people, the United States House and Senate have both passed bipartisan resolutions that denounce Chechnya’s treatment of LGBTQ people.
Chechnya was also protested during Moscow hosting the 2018 World Cup, which led to one protester getting arrested by city police and another being detained in an airport for 15 hours.