Chechen Leader Hints At Missing Gay Singer's Fate

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has hinted that a popular singer believed to have been kidnapped as part of the region's anti-gay purge, may be dead.


Kadyrov’s remarks appear to confirm what many in the region have suspected since the sudden disappearance of openly gay Russian singer Zelim Bakaev in August, 2017.

Speaking to an audience of police and security officials in a televised appearance, Kadyrov suggested that Bakayev was killed by family members due to his sexual orientation.

“His relatives, who didn’t keep an eye on him and were ashamed that he was one of them, now say that Kadyrov took him,” he said, adding that there was no “evidence” of state involvement.

Kadyrov (left) pictured with Zelim Bakaev

“His family couldn’t stop him, and then called him back home, and his brothers, it seems, accused him of being one of those,” the leader told the assembled audience, reports Radio Free Europe.

“Isn’t there anyone in the village, any man in the family, who can admit: ‘We did this’? They know full well who their relative was.”

Bakaev’s father disputed Kadyrov’s comments, telling local media agencies that his family were uninvolved in their son’s disappearance.

In September, 2017, Bakaev’s mother had publicly called on Kadyrov to investigate her son’s disappearance, but Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs refused to instigate a criminal investigation.

Worrying Circumstances

In the months after Bakaev’s disappearance other gay men came forward claiming that they had been rounded up and tortured by authorities.

In October of last year, Russian LGBT Network founder Igor Kochetkov told a press conference that sources close to the group had confirmed that 26 year-old Bakaev (sometimes stylised as ‘Bakayev’) had been caught up in Chechnya’s highly-publicised gay purge.

“We received confirmation of our earlier presumption that Bakaev was detained by Chechen authorities due to suspicion of homosexuality,” Kochetkov said.

He went on to claim that several other members of Chechnya’s entertainment industry were detained and tortured in an attempt get information on Bakaev.

Other sources close to activists in the region claimed that Bakaev had actually been murdered within hours of his disappearance. “He arrived in Grozny and was picked up by police within three hours,” claimed the sources.

“Within ten hours he was murdered.”

Chechen authorities had dismissed claims its involvement in the singer’s disappearance, with some suggesting that he left the country by choice.

In September, a month after Bakaev’s disappearance, a video purporting to be of the singer appeared on YouTube, and was subsequently reported on by state media. In the video a man resembling Bakaev says he in Germany because there are “a lot of assholes” in Grozny and Moscow. The video was dismissed by a hoax by many online commentators, who pointed out that the furniture and energy drink apparent in the video are unavailable in Germany.

Conclusive remarks?

Kadyrov’s statements about Bakaev are the first time an official has publicly commented on the singer’s disappearance, and are seen as a confirmation of what many have suspected.

“Kadyrov has essentially admitted that Bakayev was killed,” Igor Kochetkov told RFE/RL’s Russian Service on January 18. “What’s more, he is justifying and encouraging these actions.”

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