Chechen gays find refuge in Lithuania
Lithuania has offered refuge to two Chechen gays who fled the Russian region fearing for their lives, the Baltic state's foreign minister said Wednesday.
“I can confirm we provided visas to two individuals who arrived from Chechnya and who suffered persecution over their sexual orientation,” Linas Linkevicius told AFP.
Linkevicius said that Lithuania, a NATO and EU member of three million people and a vocal Russia critic, was coordinating its efforts with allies, adding that it was one of the first EU states to provide such assistance to gay Chechens.
“We have repeatedly raised these issues within the EU and the Council of Europe, regarding how we can help and provide asylum, if needed. We coordinate our actions with our allies,” he said.
Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported in March that authorities in the conservative majority Muslim region of Chechnya were imprisoning and torturing gay men.
It said authorities had detained more than 100 gay men and urged their families to kill them to “wipe clean their honour”.
At least two had been killed by relatives and a third died after being tortured, it reported.
Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has fiercely denied claims of a crackdown in the socially conservative region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would ask authorities to check the reports.
The staunchly Catholic Lithuania has itself been repeatedly criticised for failing to protect the rights of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexual) people.
ILGA-Europe, an umbrella organisation for LGBTI groups, said Lithuania ranks only 39th among 49 European countries. Russia came in second-to-last.