A leading Russian human rights group said it had “serious fears” on Friday that a gay pop star might have been killed in Chechnya as part of a crackdown on the homosexual community.
Chechen Zelimkhan Bakayev, 26, went missing in August when he left his home in Moscow to visit the capital Grozny to attend his sister’s wedding. “When a person disappears and the police force refuse to investigate his disappearance, we have serious fears for the life of that person,” Oleg Orlov, from Memorial, Russia’s oldest civil rights group, told AFP.
Russian NGOs and media outlets have raised concerns about the fate of Bakayev and speculated that Chechen police may have abducted him due to his sexual orientation. Bakayev’s mother called on Chechnya’s authorities to launch an investigation into her son’s disappearance, but no inquiry has been opened, according to Orlov.
The mystery surrounding Bakayev’s disappearance deepened in September when video recordings of the singer speaking in an apartment were uploaded to YouTube by an unknown person who claimed that he is “resting in Germany.” But relatives of Bakayev raised doubts it was really him as, they argued, he had an unusual hairstyle and had seemed to lose weight.
They also noted the apartment had Russian furniture and drinks on show likely not sold in Germany, suggesting the video is a hoax.
Bakayev’s former producer, Guilani Stadnik, told AFP he doubted the singer had been kidnapped. “I think that he escaped from his house and he is hiding somewhere,” maybe due to a personal conflict, he said.
Claims that Chechen police were targeting homosexuals and subjecting them to arbitrary arrest and violence first appeared in Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in March.
Homosexuals who have fled Chechnya to escape abuse have since given interviews to several media outlets, including AFP, alleging misconduct at the hands of the police. Openly gay Maxim Lapunov, 30, gave a press conference in Moscow earlier this month and described his detention and torture by officers in Chechnya.
Revelations about the persecution of homosexuals in Chechnya caused international outrage earlier this year, leading the Russian authorities to open an inquiry.