A 30-year-old Russian man has identified himself as one of the victims of Chechnya's so-called "gay purge," an event global human rights groups have condemned as a Nazi-like effort to rid the region of gay people.
He's the first person to publicly put his name and face on the record as being a victim of the roundup.
Maxim Lapunov had been living and working in the regional capital of Grozny when he was thrown in jail by Chechen police in March.
"The only charge they made was that I was gay," Lapunov told journalists at an invitation-only news conference in Moscow on Monday.
"One part of the jail cell was already blood-soaked. I was already stressed," he said.
"Then they started to beat me, and every 10 to 15 minutes they would come in and yell, 'He's gay and people like him should be killed.' I felt from all they said and acted (that) they would kill me in the end."
In May, Human Rights Watch reported that dozens of gay men in the mainly Muslim Russian republic were detained between February and April in unauthorized prisons. The report said they were usually tortured until they provided the names of other gays.
Lapunov told the news conference he had been selling balloons outside a Grozny mall when two men in plain clothes dragged him into a car.
Lapunov said he spent 12 days in custody, where he claims was savagely beaten by guards or police with wooden rods. He said police wanted to know about other gay people in Grozny.
Lapunov said he believes he was targeted because he worked in the production and entertainment industry. He said his name may have shown up in the contacts of other gay men who were also arrested.
"They put my face to the wall. They beat me on the back of my legs and hips," said Lapunov. "I would collapse and they would give me a chance to catch my breath before telling me to get up again. And it would start again." Read more via CBC