July 16, 2018 at 9:26 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
HRC joins protest against Trump, Putin before Finland summit

The Human Rights Campaign on July 15, 2018, projected an image onto the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, that urges U.S. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to publicly denounce the crackdown against gay men in Chechnya. The two men met in the Finnish capital on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Ty Cobb/Human Rights Campaign)

The Human Rights Campaign on Sunday urged President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to publicly condemn the ongoing anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya during their summit in Finland.

The organization specifically projected onto the side of the Presidential Palace in the Finnish capital of Helsinki where the meeting took place on Monday slogans that read, among other things, “Trump and Putin: Stop the crimes against humanity in Chechnya” and “The whole world is watching.” The projections also urged Putin to “investigate LGBTQ persecution” in Chechnya and to “bring the perpetrators to justice.”

HRC Global Director Ty Cobb on Sunday also spoke during a protest against Trump and Putin that took place in Helsinki.

“Trump has unconscionably turned a blind eye to some of the worst anti-LGBTQ attrocities in a generation, including monstrous attacks on gay and bisexual men in Chechnya,” said Cobb in a statement that HRC released after the protest. “HRC is here in Helsinki to demand Donald Trump end his deafening silence, publicly condemn these Chechen crimes against humanity, and call on Putin to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The press release also included statements from Russian LGBT Network Chair Igor Kochetkov and Viima Lampinen, chair of Seta, a Finnish LGBTI advocacy group.
“Finland is known as a global leader in LGBTI rights, and the Trump and Putin administrations should learn from that example,” said Lampinen in the HRC press release. “LGBT Chechens are being deprived of their voice, their freedom and even their lives by state-sanctioned oppression and violence. Those of us who have a voice, particularly national governments that claim to support and defend human rights, have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in April 2017 broke the story of the crackdown in Chechnya, which is a semi-autonomous Russian republic that is located in the North Caucusus.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert are among those in the Trump administration who have publicly condemned the crackdown. Putin and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close Kremlin ally, have either downplayed or dismissed the reports.

Trump’s meeting with Putin took place three days after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted on charges related to Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election. Media reports indicate upwards of 250,000 people took part in an anti-Trump protest in London on July 13, which coincided with his visit to the U.K. that included meetings with Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

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

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