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Chechnya: Report of the murders of 27 prisoners

A report of the alleged execution of 27 prisoners in the Russian republic of Chechnya has raised great concern among human rights activists. The Kremlin-critical newspaper Novaya Gazeta released the names of the young men who were allegedly arrested without charge and killed on the night of January 26th. The newspaper cites high-ranking informants from the authorities in Chechnya.

The human rights organization Amnesty International rated the report as credible and called for a full explanation. "The security forces cannot kill or torture just because they are wearing uniform," criticized Denis Krivosheev. Amnesty has documented executions in Russia's North Caucasus for several years, he said.

Novaya Gazeta had reported several times over the past few months of the abduction and mistreatment of homosexuals in Chechnya. The journalists received death threats for this. The Chechen authorities, however, viewed the reports as "disinformation" and "lies". The spokesman for the ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, Alvi Karimov, said: "You cannot arrest or suppress anyone who does not even exist in the republic." And further: If there were such people in Chechnya, "the security authorities would not have to worry about them, because their relatives would have already sent them to a place from which they could never return".

Kadyrov was installed as Chechen President by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007. Human rights activists accuse him of being responsible for torture, murders and corruption.

In Russia, the most recent report was the Novaya Gazeta "noted," it said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that since the sources were anonymous, he could not comment. Russia's human rights representative Tatiana Moskalkova said she had already sent an inquiry to investigators about the names that have now been published. The Novaya Gazeta had accused the authorities of delaying the investigations.

Note: In an earlier version of the message, we reported that those murdered were homosexuals. A message from the German Press Agency served as the source. It was later said that there was a translation error and that the motive for the crime was not homosexuality. ZEIT ONLINE has adapted the message accordingly.