An LGBTQ+ advocacy group in Chechnya has accused the country’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, of ordering the torture and murder of a gay man.
Zelimkhan Bakaev went missing in August 2017, after visiting the Chechen capital, Grozny, to attend his sister’s wedding.
He was visiting from Moscow, to where he had fled because of anti-gay purges taking place in Chechnya.
A video shared online the month after his disappearance, supposedly showed the singer in Germany, but journalists from Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta analysed the clip and concluded it had been staged.
Chechnya LGBTQ+ advocacy group SK SOS now claim that Bakaev “was killed by Chechen security forces” and his body returned to his family to be “buried like a dog”.
The group says his death was ordered by Kadyrov.
They reported a source saying Kadyrov, who had previously been photographed shaking hands with Bakaev, “considered [his] homosexuality a personal insult” and ordered people to “deal with” him.
Kadyrov and the Chechnya government have repeatedly denied any involvement in Bakaev’s disappearance. But, according to Advocate, Kadyrov referred to Bakaev’s death in a speech in 2018, where he accused the singer’s family of killing him because of his sexuality.
Kadyrov is openly anti-LGBTQ+. In an 2017 interview on HBO’s Real Spotrts with Bryant Gumbel, he claimed purges of queer people were “nonsense” and that they “don’t have any gays” in the semi-autonomous Russian republic, but, if there were any, they should be taken away to “purify our blood”.
Kadyrov is seen as a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, with the Russian Federation heavily funding the Chechen government.
In February 2022, it was reported that one of Kadryov’s top aides, Magomed Tushayev, who helped oversee the anti-gay purges, had been killed in Ukraine, where Chechen fighters were assisting Russian forces following Russia’s invasion.