A survivor of Chechnya’s gay purge publicly speaks out

Maxim Lapunov was captured, detained and tortured by Russian authorities

The first man to speak publicly about his experience in Chechnya’s ‘gay purge’ has called for more to be done to enact justice.

30-year-old Maxim Lapunov spoke at a press conference on Monday (October 16) organised by activists, alleging that he was kidnapped, detained and tortured over a period of time by Chechen authorities. He detailed that he was kept in a bloody cell for 12 days and tortured for names of other gay men and any sexual partners.

Lapunov is a Russian citizen and had lived in Chechnya for two years, working as an event organiser. He told press he had not been open with his sexual orientation. He said he was arrested by plain clothed authorities March 16 and released March 28 on condition he told no one of his ordeal.

“The only charge they made was that I was gay,” he stated. “I could hardly walk. I was sure they were going to kill me, I was preparing for that.”

Lapunov claims he was told by an investigator that he would not be beaten with the same vigour as native Chechens, though was beaten regularly and slept in squalid conditions. Other survivors have told of electric shock torture and violent assault, some in the presence of Chechen leaders.

News broke earlier this year that Chechen authorities were rounding up, torturing and allegedly murdered men because of their suspected sexuality. Back in July, the Russian LGBT Network released their report into the mass abductions and murder of gay men in Chechnya. According to their investigation, based on 33 testimonies received from survivors, they suspect several dozens of victims were either tortured to death or murdered.

In a televised interview, Chechnya’s head Ramzan Kadyrov called gays “devils” who “are not people”, and denied that LGBT people even existed in the region.

“I want to ask the government to investigate, because we are all people and all have rights,” Lapunov added.

Russia had received worldwide condemnation for failing to act accordingly and put a stop to the so-called “honour killings”. It was previously reported that Putin had given the nod to investigate the horrors of Chechnya. Activists and campaigners were confident Tatyana Moskalkova, the Kremlin’s human rights commissioner, would see through a proper investigation.

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch told the Guardian: “Since we appealed to Moskalkova at the end of August, we have not spoken about this case in the press in any way. We wanted to give the state bodies a chance to do their work properly.”

Igor Kalyapin of the Committee to Prevent Torture also told the paper: “There has not been any kind of serious investigation to check the veracity of what he has written on 26 sheets of paper. There has been absolutely nothing.”

Moskalkova gave a statement about the man coming forward with his story, the first person to make a formal complaint to Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee: “I confirm there is a man, a complainant,” she told Interfax. “As soon as we complete our investigations, I can give more information.”