January 25, 2018 at 11:34 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Tillerson speaks with Russian counterpart, unclear if Chechnya raised

Rex Tillerson, gay news, Washington Blade

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Jan. 24, 2018, spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. A State Department spokesperson did not say whether Tillerson raised the anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya with his Russian counterpart. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A State Department spokesperson on Thursday did not say whether Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya during his latest conversation with his Russian counterpart.

The spokesperson told the Washington Blade that Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “had a wide-ranging discussion” when they spoke on the telephone on Wednesday.

A readout of the call the State Department released on Wednesday notes Tillerson and Lavrov “discussed issues and concerns related to Syria, North Korea and Ukraine.” The spokesperson with whom the Blade spoke on Thursday said the State Department has “no further details to read out at this time.”

Authorities in Chechnya — a predominantly Muslim semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus — have arrested more than 100 men over the last year because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The ongoing crackdown that reportedly includes lesbian and transgender Chechens has sparked outrage around the world.

The U.S. last month imposed sanctions against Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Ayub Kataev of the Chechen Internal Affairs Ministry under a 2012 human rights law that is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after he was arrested during his investigation of a $230 million tax scheme.

Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has dismissed the crackdown as “nonsense” and has denied there are gay men in Chechnya.

Chechen singer Zelimkhan Bakayev disappeared last August. Media reports indicate that Kadyrov earlier this month said Bakayev’s family members killed him because of his sexual orientation.

Tillerson last summer raised the crackdown with Lavrov in a letter that he sent to him.

The State Department and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley have publicly expressed concern over the crackdown. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate last year unanimously approved resolutions that condemn it.

President Trump has not publicly condemned the crackdown.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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