CNN's Matthew Chance spoke to two men who have escaped Chechnya's brutal crackdown on homosexuality. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the men described being detained, beaten, and tortured--as well as the fear of violence from members of their own family.
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"If my family finds out that I'm gay, then no authorities, no troops are needed. They will kill me themselves," a man who asked to be identified as Ahmed told Chance. "Even if my parents will forgive me, someone--like my uncle--won't forgive."
A spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has not only denied the persecution, but also the very existence, of gay men in Chechnya. In a recent video, Chechen clerics in the main city of Grozny delivered an angry sermon denouncing the allegations and promised "retribution." Meanwhile, the staff of the Russian paper Novaya Gazeta, which first reported the story, tells CNN they now fear for their safety.
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In a statement Monday, UN ambassador Nikki Haley said the U.S. is "disturbed" by the reports seeping out of Chechnya, and has called on Chechen authorities to "immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses."
Former Vice President Joe Biden has urged the Trump administration to put a stop to the detentions in Chechnya, saying he is "disgusted and appalled" by the reports.