A man who miraculously survived Chechnya’s relentless anti-gay campaign has stepped forward to share his horrific, distressing story.
For 12 days, Maxim Lapunov said he was held captive in a blood-soaked cell, beaten, threatened, and humiliated by authorities.
The 30-year-old man, originally from Siberia, had been living and working in Chechnya for two years. Then, one night in March, he says he was kidnapped by two men in a car.
By his account, he had been taken to a police facility, where he says he was beaten, interrogated, and forced to name other men.
“They burst in every 10 or 15 minutes shouting that I was gay and they would kill me.
“Then they beat me with a stick for a long time: in the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on.
“Every day they assured me they would kill me, and told me how.”
In recent months, nearly 30 men have stepped forward to share similar stories of detainment, torture, and abuse.
One man told the BBC that Checnya’s goal was to “exterminate” gay men in the republic.
Lapunov describes the day he left the detainment facility:
“I could barely crawl when I left.”
Although he’s free, he is still haunted by the screams of his fellow detainees.
And though he’s been threatened to withdraw his account, Lapunov seeks justice.
“It should not be like this. We are all people. We all have rights.
“If those rights can be violated [in Chechnya], it could happen in any region. And no-one knows whose son or daughter will be next.”