Five activists have been detained in Moscow after attempting to deliver a petition against the alleged torture and detentions of gay people in Chechnya, according to the BBC. The activists said that an estimated 2 million people had signed the petition to protest and call for the investigation of alleged human rights abuses in the Russian region.
The BBC reports that the activists were held when they tried to deliver a printout of the petition to the prosecutor general's office. They had also been carrying large empty boxes meant to symbolize the online signatures that they had collected to demand "an unbiased investigation of illegal detentions of hundreds of people in Chechnya because of their homosexuality."
Bert Wander, campaign director at Avaaz, a New York City-based organization that helped collect the signatures, told NBC News that the alleged detentions were a "blatant attempt by Russia to intimidate those standing up for gay people (which) will only draw more global attention to the horrors unfolding in Chechnya."
Independent local newspaper Novoya Gazeta first reported on the alleged camps in April, after which the Associated Press and the New York Times separately interviewed Chechen men who survived and spoke of their experiences, corroborating the reports that hundreds of gay men had been put into concentration camp-like prisons in Chechnya.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin backed an inquiry into the reported abuses, while earlier this month, German chancellor Angela Merkel urged the Russian authorities to protect LGBTQ rights. Meanwhile, White House staffers said they were "not aware" of whether or not President Trump has been briefed on the situation, though U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has released an official statement, writing, "if true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored."
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