It started with what local officials wrote off as an April Fool's joke. On April 1, shocking reports began to emerge from the Russian republic of Chechnya that at least one hundred gay men were rounded up and tortured, with at least three killed in the process. A spokesperson for the region's leader dismissed the reports, but mounting evidence shows that the alleged abuse wasn't some sort of sick media prank. In response to growing concerns from foreign governments and human rights organizations, former Vice President Joe Biden called for Trump's administration to condemn Chechnya for reported LGBTQ violence.
In a statement on Friday, Biden said that he was "disgusted and appalled" by reports of the state-sponsored violence. "When faced with such crimes of hate and inhumanity, it is the responsibility of every person of conscience to speak out — to oppose this campaign of violence before it continues further," Biden said in a statement.
"I hope that the current administration lives up to the promises it has made to advance human rights for everyone by raising this issue directly with Russia's leaders," Biden continued. "The United States must lead the way to demand an end to these egregious violations of human rights."
As of Saturday, the Trump administration had not commented on the reported violence.
The reports from Novaya Gazeta, the Russian independent newspaper that first broke the story, have been backed up by the BBC, the Guardian, and human rights organizations. Novaya Gazeta alleged that the officials from the predominantly-Muslim republic were rounding up gay men and keeping them in makeshift detention facility and tortured on a daily basis.
As pressure to investigate the reports from the international community mounted, a spokesperson for Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that the Kremlin had received no reliable evidence to backup the claims.
Other reports emerging from Chechnya indicated that a group of Muslim clerics gathered at the republic's main mosque on April 3, days after the first story came out, and passed a resolution. "Retribution will catch up with the true instigators, wherever and whoever they are," it said.
It doesn't seem that the Chechen clerics are so offended at the idea that the paper would allege these horrific abuses against gay men, but more so that there were gay men in the republic at all. “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” Alvi Karimov, spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, told Interfax news agency. “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”