March 24, 2021 at 10:51 am PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
EU sanctions two Chechnya officials over anti-LGBTQ crackdown

BRUSSELS — The European Union has sanctioned two Chechnya officials over their role in an anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

The sanctions — published in the EU Official Journal on Monday — apply to Deputy Chechen Prime Minister Abuzaid Vismuradov and Aiub Kataev, an official with the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry in the Chechen city of Argun.

Vismuradov has commanded Chechnya’s Terek Special Rapid Response Team since May 2012, and, according to the EU “personally oversees widespread and systemic persecutions in Chechnya, which began in 2017.”

“The repressions are directed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, those presumed to belong to LGBTI groups and other individuals suspected of being opponents of the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov,” says the EU.

“Abuzaid Vismuradov and the ‘Terek’ unit under his command are responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia, in particular torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions and extrajudicial and arbitrary killings and executions,” it adds. “According to numerous witnesses, Abuzaid Vismuradov personally supervised and took part in torturing detainees.”

The EU says Vismuradov is an “unofficial bodyguard” to Kadyrov. It also notes Kataev “oversees the activities of local state security and police agencies.”

“In this position, he personally oversees widespread and systematic persecutions in Chechnya, which began in 2017,” says the EU. “The repressions are directed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, those presumed to belong to LGBTI groups, and other individuals suspected of being opponents of the head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.”

The EU says Kataev is “responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia, in particular torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions and extrajudicial or arbitrary executions and killings.” The also cites witnesses who said Kataev “personally supervised and took part in torturing detainees.”

Media reports indicate the sanctions include a travel ban, frozen assets and a ban on EU citizens sending money to Kataev and Vismuradov.

The anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus, has sparked global outrage.

The U.S. in 2017 sanctioned Kadyrov and Kataev under the Magnitsky Act, a law that freezes the assets of Russian citizens who commit human rights abuses and prevents them from obtaining U.S. visas. The Trump administration last July banned Kadyrov and members of his family from traveling to the U.S.

The State Department last month expressed concern over the fate of two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia and returned to their homeland, even though they had fled its anti-LGBTQ crackdown. Kadyrov and the Kremlin, for their part, have dismissed reports that Chechens are targeted because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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