German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence to investigate the reported persecution of gay men in Chechnya.
The two leaders spoke at a tense joint news conference in Moscow, the first time Merkel has visited Russia in over two years, reports Pink News.
The German Chancellor used the meeting as an opportunity to raise her concerns over reports of the arrests and torture of more than 100 men in Chechnya.
“We believe in an exchange even if there are differences of opinion. We spoke about the rights and opinions of civil society here in Russia,” said Merkel.
“The right to demonstrate is important in a civil society, and I also highlighted the roles of NGOs.
“We have received negative reports on the way that homosexuals are dealt with in Chechnya particularly, and I asked President Putin to use his influence to [help] gay people in the region.”
President Putin did not respond to Chancellor Merkel’s comments.
Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported in April that more than 100 gay men had vanished in Chechnya and at least four had been killed.
The Kremlin maintains that these reports have not been confirmed, labelling them as "phantom complaints" in the media.
UN human rights experts have called on Russia to take action against the violence and persecution of gay men in the autonomous region.
“We urge the authorities to put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual in the Chechen Republic who are living in a climate of fear fuelled by homophobic speeches by local authorities,” a UN statement reads.
“It is crucial that reports of abductions, unlawful detentions, torture, beatings and killings of men perceived to be gay or bisexual are investigated thoroughly.
“These are acts of persecution and violence on an unprecedented scale in the region, and constitute serious violations of the obligations of the Russian Federation under international human rights law.”