Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has again denied reports that gay men are being detained and tortured in the Russian republic – not because it's not allowed, but because they don't exist.
"This is nonsense," Kadyrov said when asked about the allegations by HBO's Real Sports. "We don't have those kinds of people here. We don't have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada."
"Praise be to God," the Chechen leader added. "Take them far from us so we don't have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them."
Allegations about violence directed towards gay men in Chechnya first emerged in April when independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta described how more than 100 gay men had been detained and tortured in World War Two-style concentration camps for LGBT people.
After initially reporting prison camps had been established in the villages of Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt, the newspaper has since suggested there are at least six prisons across Chechnya.
Human rights organisations have corroborated reports of widespread anti-LGBT abuse.
Kadyrov initially laughed dismissively when asked about the allegations by HBO's David Scott, whose interview will be aired in full on Tuesday (18 July).
The Chechen leader asks someone off camera: "Why did [this reporter] come here? What's the point of these questions?"
Scott continues to press him on the treatment of the LGBT community, prompting an angry response from Kadyrov.
"They [gay people] 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," he says.
The interview forms part of an HBO documentary on how Kadyrov is using mixed martial arts (MMA) to spread a political message overseas.
Kadyrov, 40, who has been linked to a number of extra-judicial killings of opponents, has accused European leaders of fabricating allegations of anti-LGBT abuse in the Russian region.
His spokesman, Alvi Karimov, told Interfax in April: "You cannot arrest or repress people who just don't exist in the republic."
He added: "If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return."
An April report by Human Rights Watch on the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya said: "For several weeks now, a brutal campaign against LGBT people has been sweeping through Chechnya.
"Law enforcement and security agency officials under control of the ruthless head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, have rounded up dozens of men on suspicion of being gay, torturing and humiliating the victims. "Some of the men have forcibly disappeared. Others were returned to their families barely alive from beatings."
You may be interested in:
- Chechnya accused of secret extra-judicial executions of dozens of people
- Trump just broke his own record for the longest, most awkward handshake with Macron
- Maryam Mirzakhani dead: Iranian math genius and first female Fields Medal winner loses cancer battle
- Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says any gay men in his republic 'should move to Canada'