Police have detained five Russian activists before they could deliver three hugely popular petitions against the gay purge in Chechnya.
The petitions, created by All Out, Avaaz and an independent activist called Igor on change.org, have attracted more than two million signatures.
The young activists, who were acting in conjunction with the Russian LGBT Network, travelled to Moscow to deliver the petitions to the Prosecutor General.
But they were immediately detained by police who, it is understood, were tipped off that the activists were coming.
Writing from the inside of a police van, the group said: “We (had) barely left the car with all the boxes, (when) we got immediately detained by the police!
The activists added that the authorities were “planning on taking us to the Tverskoy police station,” which is more than a half-hour drive away.
“Here’s a picture from inside a Russian police vehicle, used for transporting prisoners,” they continued.
The young activists called on supporters to spread their message, pointing out that their petition – the one on change.org – was “nearly at 400,000 – this is a huge power to be reckoned with!
“Let’s show what it’s capable of!”
The group has given their names as Nikita Safronov, Alexandra Alekseyeva, Marina Dedales, Yury Guaiana and Valentina Dekhtyarenko.
The Russian government gave permission for the country’s human rights ombudsman to investigate the purge last week.
But just yesterday, the Russian Embassy in Israel said an investigation had taken place and found nothing, and that reports of a purge were being used as “a propaganda campaign against Russia”.
The letter to Israeli publication Haaretz claimed: “We would like to note that the Russian system of government is of a democratic nature”.
This was just hours before these activists were detained for trying to deliver petitions.
Victims of the gay purge are reportedly being beaten and tortured with electricity, as well as being forced to live with no water or food.
The Russian LGBT Network has also helped to evacuate 40 gay men from the region, with those involved describing the “deadly dangerous” situation they found there.
And the reports have been separately confirmed by Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group, both of which cite on-the-ground sources that appear to confirm gay men have been targeted for detention.
In its report, HRW said: “The information published by Novaya Gazeta is consistent with the reports Human Rights Watch recently received from numerous trusted sources, including sources on the ground.
“The number of sources and the consistency of the stories leaves us with no doubt that these devastating developments have indeed occurred.”
Journalists at Novaya Gazeta who exposed the purge have been forced into hiding as they have received numerous threats from the largest mosque in the region, which has declared jihad against the newspaper.
Earlier this week, Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov denied that there have ever been any gay men to persecute in the region, and called them “fake” Chechens.
The region’s leader said he would cooperate with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s investigation into reports of gay men being abducted, tortured and killed in the republic,though he denied any gay Chechens actually existed.
Following the initial reports, it was revealed that Chechnya authorities are forcing gay men into concentration camps, sparking an outcry from LGBT and human rights activists across the world.
A number of heart-breaking stories from the region have been shared, including stories of parents of gay people who were issued a warning to kill their children before police killed them in torture camps.
Tanya Lokshina, from the Human Rights Watch, said that Chechen authorities had been conducting “extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel and degrading treatment” over the span of the last two decades.
Britain’s deputy foreign secretary revealed the terrifying threat from the Chechen leader while taking an urgent question on the situation in parliament last month.
Ramadan starts on May 26 this year and is widely celebrated in Chechnya, which is a predominantly Muslim area.