A gay man has spoken publicly about how he was tortured and humiliated by police in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Maxim Lapunov, who is from Siberia, said he was beaten with sticks and threatened by officers while held for 12 days in a blood-soaked cell.

He claims he was seized by officers in the middle of the night in March by two men he did not know. He was taken to a police station where he was interrogated for hours and constantly beaten until he named another gay man living in Chechnya.

"They burst in every 10 or 15 minutes shouting that I was gay and they would kill me," he recalled at a human rights convention in Moscow on Tuesday (17 October).

"Then they beat me with a stick for a long time: in the legs, ribs, buttocks and back. When I started to fall, they pulled me up and carried on," he said. "Every day they assured me they would kill me, and told me how."

He was released after 12 days when his family launched an appeal, distributing missing posters around the Chechen capital.

"I could barely crawl when I left," he recalled, adding that the screams of other detainees still haunt him in nightmares.

A total of 27 gay men have fled Chechnya since the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported in April how LGBT people were being detained in World War II-era concentration camps.

They were moved to a safe location along with 52 relatives and partners by a group called the LGBT Network.

One of the men told the BBC that he had received electric shock therapy and said the aim of the operation was to "exterminate" gay men in Chechnya.

After senior European politicians condemned the violence against LGBT people in Chechnya, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered law enforcement agencies to investigate "rumours" of abuse in the republic. But activists say the situation has not improved.

"The authorities' excuse was that no victims had made statements," said Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch (HRW). "Now they have one, but there's no investigation. There is a lack of political will."

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen republic, has dismissed allegations of a "gay purge" as "nonsense" invented "by devils." He claimed in July that there aren't any gay people living in Chechnya.

"It should not be like this. We are all people. We all have rights," Lapunov said as he recalled his ordeal. "If those rights can be violated [in Chechnya], it could happen in any region. And no-one knows whose son or daughter will be next."

Maxim Lapunov
Openly gay Maxim Lapunov, 30, described how he was tortured by police while living in Chechnya on 16 October 2017 ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images