The German Chancellor has asked Vladimir Putin to help protect gay rights in Chechnya, amid allegations homosexual people there have been persecuted and tortured.
In her first visit to Russia in two years, Angela Merkel discussed the alleged torture of more than 100 people earlier this year after talks at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
She told reporters at a press conference: “I asked President Putin to use his influence to protect these minority rights.
“I think we have differences but international politics means to always keep looking for dialogue.”
Last month a Chechen government spokesman called the allegations of a crackdown “an absolute lie,” and denied that gay men exist in the republic.
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic,” Alvi Karmov told Interfax News Agency. “If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organisations wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”
Merkel also stressed the importance of civil rights to Putin, including the right to demonstrate and the right for NGOs to operate freely.
Russia has passed a series of laws in recent years that has made protesting nearly impossible and has clamped down on NGOs (nongovernmental organisations) that voice opposition to the Kremlin or that receive foreign funding.