Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 31° Clear
News >  World

Lithuania opens door to gay Chechens fleeing persecution, while U.S. slams it shut

This photo taken on Friday, April 28, 2017, shows Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he not be further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family. He is from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia. (Nataliya vasilyeva / Associated Press)
This photo taken on Friday, April 28, 2017, shows Anzor, a gay man who spoke to the Associated Press on condition that he not be further identified out of fear for his safety and that of his family. He is from Chechnya, the predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia. (Nataliya vasilyeva / Associated Press)
By Robbie Gramer Foreign Policy

Gay Russian men are attempting to flee their country amid a wave of detention, torture, and killing in the country’s southern region of Chechnya. Now Lithuania has become one of the first countries to grant two of those persecuted refuge, while the United States denied their visa requests.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told Baltic News ServiceWednesday that Lithuania granted visas to “two natives of Chechnya who suffered persecution because of their sexual orientation.” He called on other European Union countries to follow suit.

Lithuania made the announcement on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, an annual observance to raise awareness of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

While Lithuania opened itself to those fleeing persecution, the United States slammed its own door shut. On Wednesday, Buzzfeed News reported the State Department denied visas to gay Chechens fleeing persecution, even while LGBTI groups in Russia frantically search for ways to get them out of the country.

The Russia LGBT Network said there are still about 40 survivors of Chechen prison camps currently in hiding and trying to flee the country.

The Chechen government, run by controversial strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, vehemently denied reports his government was rounding up gay men in prison camps. Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on May 11 to investigate the reports amid a firestorm of international outrage.

However, after Israeli press covered the issue extensively, the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv released a statement the same day of Putin’s announcement suggesting the investigation was already over and nothing happened. “There are no victims of persecution, threats or violence,” the statement, sent to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, read. It went on to call the reports “the excuse for the beginning of a propaganda campaign against Russia around the world.”

Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported the imprisonment and abuse of gay Chechens in April.

While the reports drew widespread condemnation, including sharp rebuke from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, the White House was conspicuously quiet on the matter. The White House gave no indication the issue came up during President Donald Trump’s now infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 10, and said it was “not aware” if Trump was even briefed on the issue.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.



Annual health and dental insurance enrollment period open now

 (Courtesy Washington Healthplanfinder)
Sponsored

2020 has been a stressful year for myriad reasons.