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Putin said he backs a probe into 'rumors' gays have been tortured in Chechnya. Media reports allege gays have been arrested and tortured in the North Caucasus republic, stirring an international outcry.
Demonstrators in front of the Chancellery in Berlin this week called on Angela Merkel to raise the issue of brutality against gays in Chechnya with Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said he supports an investigation into the reported torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya, days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed him on the issue.
Putin said he would personally ask the chief prosecutor and the interior minister to cooperate with human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova in an investigation into the reported brutal treatment of gays in the North Caucasus republic.
In televised comments, Putin agreed that Moskalkova should investigate "rumors, you could say, about what is happening in our North Caucasus with people of non-traditional orientation," he said referring to gays.
On Tuesday, Merkel in a joint press conference with Putin urged him to "use his influence" to protect gays amid "very negative reports" coming out of Chechnya.
Merkel's comments came as the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden wrote Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to urge the end of gay persecution in Chechnya.
The independent "Novaya Gazeta" newspaper reported in April that Chechen authorities have been rounding up and torturing gay men, triggering an international outcry over human rights in the conservative Muslim region.
The newspaper said authorities had detained more than 100 gay men and urged their families to carry out so-called honor killings. At least two gay men have been killed by relatives and a third died of torture, according to the report.
Later international media reports indicated many gays had fled the region to other parts of Russia.
Moskalkova, who is close to the Kremlin, has towed the official line, saying last month there had been no complaints from victims. But on Friday she suggested there should be a way for victims to report abuse when they are outside of Chechnya.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an insurgent turned Kremlin loyalist, has denied any mistreatment of gays and even dismissed they exist in the conservative region.
"Chechen society does not have the phenomenon called non-traditional sexual orientation: its people have lived for thousands of years according to different rules laid down by Allah," Kadyrov said Friday, adding he was "ready to closely cooperate" with Moskalkova.
Kadyrov has been accused of major human rights abuses and running Chechnya as a mafia-like fiefdom.
cw/bw (AP, AFP)