Following his disappearance from the Chechen capital in August and rumors that he had left the province, NewNowNext reports that Russian singer Zelimkhan Bakayev, 26, was reportedly arrested in Chechnya and allegedly tortured to death within hours of his arrival.
Bakayev was last seen on August 8 in the Chechen capital Grozny, where he was visiting family for his sister’s wedding. Sources told NewNowNext, however, that he was abducted by Chechen authorities just three hours after landing.
Chechnya, a province of Russia, has come under fire by the larger international community over the last year for their anti-gay policies with larger allegations that the government was systematically arresting, torturing and detaining gay and bisexual men in concentration camps — with reports that at least 100 were arrested and three were killed as of early 2017. There were also reports, as HuffPost notes, that families were encouraged to kill their gay sons themselves before the government did it.
— Dallas Voice (@DallasVoice) October 23, 2017
Meanwhile Chechen officials, on the record, instead just denied the existence of gay men in Chechnya, per the Washington Post.
“This is nonsense,” Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov reportedly said when asked about the allegations of persecution of gay and bisexual men. “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada”
Bakaev, who was born in Chechnya before rising as a popular singer in Eastern Europe.[also reportedly had “regular panic attacks” at the thought of visiting family in Chechnya, fully aware of the horrifying ways they treated gay and bisexual men.
— Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi) August 19, 2017
According to NewNowNext, during a press conference on Monday, where a victim of the anti-gay purge detailed his horrific experience of being repeatedly threatened, forced to fight his partner and tortured in a Grozny concentration camp, Founder of the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, also discussed Bakayev’s disappearance.
“We received confirmation of our earlier presumption that Bakayev was detained by Chechen authorities due to suspicion of homosexuality,” he said.
Russian TV stations have reported that a video has surfaced of a person who looks like Bakayev claiming to have moved to Germany, adding that Bakayev messaged his Aunt and Mother on WhatsApp telling them he was living abroad before his phone number became unavailable. However, many advocates and friends of Bakayev claim that the video is questionable on several accounts, particularly because of the furniture and Russian brand energy drink shown in the video that aren’t available in Germany.
Officials in Chechnya have continued to deny the existence of the camps and a reportedly threatening survivors who come forward publicly with their stories.