Trump meets with Putin at G20 summit

By : MICHAEL K. LAVERS of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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It remains unclear whether President Trump on Friday raised the ongoing crackdown against gay men in Chechnya with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the G20 Summit.

The Associated Press reported Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the meeting in the German city of Hamburg that lasted more than two hours, told reporters Trump raised the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Tillerson said Putin denied his government sought to influence the outcome of the election. The U.S. and Russia after the meeting announced a ceasefire in southwestern Syria would take effect on Sunday at noon local time (5 a.m. EST on Sunday).

Tillerson did not mention Chechnya when he spoke with reporters after the meeting

“The two leaders exchanged views on the current nature of the U.S.-Russia relationship and the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship,” he said.

Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucuses.

Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in April reported Chechen authorities have arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation — or perceived sexual orientation — since the beginning of the year. At least three of these men have reportedly died after their arrest, while others have been beaten and tortured and sent to secret prisons.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close Putin ally, and the Kremlin have downplayed or even dismissed these reports. The Russian LGBT Network — a Moscow-based advocacy group that is providing assistance to gay Chechens who have fled — has expressed skepticism over the Russian government’s claims that it has begun to investigate the crackdown.

Trump has yet to publicly comment on the crackdown, which has sparked outrage around the world.

Tillerson told U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) last month during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that he has not discussed it with Russian officials. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Wednesday urged Trump to raise Chechnya with Putin during their meeting.

“I urge you to stand with the victims by calling on President Putin to take immediate action to bring the violence to an end and the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes to justice,” wrote Griffin in his open letter.

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