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Putin backs Chechnya hate crimes inquiry

IANS | Moscow |

Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed an inquiry into reported hate crimes and a crackdown on gay people in Chechnya, the media reported.

On Friday, Putin said he would personally ask the prosecutor general and interior minister to help Kremlin rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova check the reported abuse, the BBC reported.

During a meeting with Moskalkova, the president referred to the reports as "rumours, you could say, about what is happening in our North Caucasus with people of non-traditional orientation", a euphemism for gay people.

He was responding to the ombudswoman's request to set up a "working group" somewhere in Russia, but not in Chechnya, to "take complaints from citizens" on the reported abuse.

In response, Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he was ready to co-operate with the federal authorities on the issue.

But Kadyrov again insisted there were no "people of non-traditional orientation" in the predominantly Muslim republic, part of the Russian Federation.

Homophobia is widespread in Chechnya. 

Last month, Natalia Poplevskaya of the Russian LGBT Network said there was "an organised campaign to detain gay men" in Chechnya.

Victims of the crackdown – who were either gay or just perceived to be gay – were being held at a detention centre near Argun, 20km from the capital city of Grozny, she told the BBC.

"All the people arrested are homosexual men or perceived as being gay."

A Chechen government spokesman, Alvi Karimov, has denied the allegations.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in the Russian Federation in 1993 but concern about homophobia remains high. 

In 2013, parliament passed a law imposing heavy fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under 18.