Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the existence of gay men in his country – before saying: “If there are any, take them to Canada.”
During an interview on TV network HBO, Mr Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, was vehement in his denials when asked about the LGBT community in the Eastern European country.
David Scott, from HBO’s Real Sports, asked the 40-year-old head of state: “I wanted to ask you about the alleged roundup, abduction, and torture of gay men in the Republic. What, Mr President, do you want to say about that?”
“This is nonsense,” he said in reply.
“We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays.”
In case some homosexuals should have slipped through the net, Mr Kadyrov advised transporting them to Canada. “Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”
Mr Scott continued to press the Chechen leader, saying: “But do you not get concerned when you read these accounts of young men who say they’ve been tortured for days?”
Mr Kadyrov responded angrily: “They are devils. They are for sale. They are not people. God damn them for what they are accusing us of. They will have to answer to the Almighty for this.”
Purges strike fear in new Chechnya
During the HBO interview, the first time a Western outlet has interviewed him, Mr Kadyrov also vowed to “put the world on its knees and screw it from behind.”
Canada has condemned Chechnya for reportedly torturing and killing gay men.
A global affairs spokesperson emailed a statement to BuzzFeed News in April saying: “We are very concerned by any and all allegations of human rights violations in Chechnya, Russia.
“Canada deplores acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta was the first to break the story of an anti-gay purge in the southern Russian republic.
One man who has fled Chechnya told the Guardian he was stripped naked by three men, filmed and beaten up.
“They shouted insults at me, they broke my jaw and left me covered in blood,” he said.
“They told me I had to pay them a huge bribe or they’d publish the video online and tell my family I was gay.”