Over the last few weeks, there have been reports out of the Russian republic of Chechnya of gay men being brutally beaten, arrested, tortured, and in some cases, even murdered by authorities in the region. The notoriously conservative Chechnya has always been unforgiving for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ, but reports of a heightened hostility toward the community have become more common as stories of inhumane criminal acts towards gay men have come out. And people have questioned why Moscow has seemingly turned a blind eye to these allegations.
On Wednesday, Yahoo News’ Katie Couric asked Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova to answer for these reports, but Zaharova tried to prevent the question from being asked. “No. No. No. No. This is not my issue. I’m not a specialist in that.” Zaharova pleaded with Couric in the video posted to Couric’s Facebook page as she kept insisting, “I’m sorry. This is not my field.” As Couric finished asking Zakarova what Russia would do about the reports of gay men being abused and murdered, Zaharova simply stated that the Russian government was “holding an investigation, as normal countries do in these cases.”
Couric then attempted to read a passage from the New York Times editorial board before a visibly annoyed Zakarova, again, stopped her in her tracks:”I just asked you. This is not my field.” Couric was eventually able to read the passage that bluntly accused Russia of turning a blind eye to gay hate crimes in an attempt to make their gay population “invisible,” to which Zakarova only continued to insist that an investigation was underway. She said she’d get back to Couric when she had gained more information.
A few weeks ago, the reporter who broke the reports (of over 100 gay men being rounded-up and jailed) for Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta went into hiding amid safety fears after blowing the whistle on the Chechnyan authorities’ alleged actions. Muslim clerics in Chechnya have declared “jihad” against Novaya Gazeta staff since the publishing of the report, causing many of them to flee Russia.