The July 18 episode of HBO’s “Real Sports” features a surprising interview subject—Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s Chechen Republic, in his first interview with a Western journalist since 2014, notes Dylan Myles-Primakoff, Senior Program Officer for Russia at the National Endowment for Democracy. While the interview’s main theme is Kadyrov’s use of mixed martial arts as a political instrument, an excerpt released before the episode aired focused on the main topic putting Chechnya in the international spotlight: reports of brutal government abuses against gay people in the region, he writes for the Atlantic Council:
A spirited international advocacy effort has turned the situation of Chechnya’s LGBT population into a sore spot for the Russian government. Global condemnation has become focused on the issue of anti-gay violence in the region, including sharp statements from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron during recent joint events with President Vladimir Putin. However, while it is critical that global voices highlight this crisis, the issue’s sudden prominence is ironic given that abduction, torture, and extrajudicial execution have been regular facts of life for all residents of Chechnya during the Putin era. The violence committed by state actors against Chechnya’s gay population is neither a new phenomenon nor one to which gay people are uniquely vulnerable.
“Kadyrov’s showy displays of fealty to Putin emphasize that the political dynamic is defined by the two men’s personal relationship, rather than by Chechnya’s legal status under Russia’s constitution,” Myles-Primakoff adds. “Kadyrov regularly lays down markers of his effective independence.”