"I was prepared to be killed." First public Chechen coming out amid mass gay purge
Maxim Lapunov - the first victim in the case on the persecution of gays in Chechnya who revealed his name and surname - opened up at a Moscow press conference on torture and unlawful detentions of people of nonstandard sexual orientation in the republic.
The press conference of Lapunov, who was detained in Grozny on suspicion of homosexual relations and who suffered from the actions of Chechen security forces, was held at the Novaya Gazeta’s press center with increased security.
Russian Maxim Lapunov turned to the hotline of the Russian LGBT Network in early May. On March 16, he was detained by members of the Chechen security forces and kept for 12 days in the basement of, presumably, the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Chechen Republic, one of the so-called "secret prisons".
Lapunov came to Chechnya from Omsk in 2015 to work as a host of entertainment events, and in addition, he sold toys and balloons, as well as worked part-time as a photographer.
According to Lapunov, in the evening of March 16, 2017, two people in civilian clothes took him away near Grand Park shopping center in Grozny, in the presence of several dozen witnesses, they pushed him into a car and took to a police station.
The young man said that the main accusation on the part of the law enforcers was his belonging to the LGBT community. At first, Lapunov was almost not beaten, he said, this was directly related to the fact that he was an ethnic Russian, but he was intimidated with torture and before his eyes other people were brutally tortured - he was demanded to give the names of several gay Chechens.
Initially, the detainee denied everything, but after some time the "chief of the jailers" ordered to get the testimony out of him. Lapunov claims he was forced to name several familiar gays through beatings and tortures, after which they were beaten and tortured in front of him. All the time in prison, according to Lapunov, the atmosphere was oppressive. Part of the cell where the captive was held was covered with blood, he was morally "prepared to be killed."
"Before they started beating me, they ran into the cell with screams every 10-15 minutes, accusing me of being gay, saying that people like me should be killed," Lapunov said.
However, at the same time they said that they would release me, since "only gay men with Caucasian names interested" the jailers on his phone."
As a result, Lapunov was still released, but for this he had to sign documents, the contents of which he did not know, leave his fingerprints on a pistol, which was subsequently sealed in a package, and record a video in which the detainee said that he was gay.
Lapunov believes he was released only because there were too many witnesses of his detention, Maxim's relatives immediately announced him wanted, and in the Perm region, where he came from, a criminal case was opened.
However, in May, says Maxim Lapunov, several people of Caucasian appearance came to the village where he lived. He managed to hide, but the visiting Caucasians were at his house and, according to him, they were looking for something. Having telephoned his friends from Grozny, Lapunov learned that one of the Russians held in the prison was later killed in his homeland. Then he realized that he was in danger, and turned for help to the hotline of the Russian LGBT Network.
On August 29, Maxim Lapunov was introduced to Tatiana Moskalkova, human rights commissioner in Russia. On September 22, Moskalkova submitted a statement to the Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR). At the meeting, the ombudsman also got familiarized with the statement addressed to the chairman of the ICR Alexander Bastrykin, which Lapunov himself and human rights activists asked to personally hand it over to him.
As it was previously reported, in early April, Novaya Gazeta wrote about the massive repressions of gays in Chechnya, tortures, illegal detentions and several extrajudicial executions. The reports went viral and caused a stir around the world, as well as the anger of the representatives of the authorities of Chechnya, who called this information slander.
Later Ramzan Kadyrov at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin denied persecution against homosexuals in Chechnya, and called the materials in the media "provocation."