Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, has been banned from entering the United States. After the country leveled personal sanctions against the Russian for his part in Chechnya’s overly-harsh LGBTQ+ activity and “horrific reports of abuses against LGBTI persons.”
“The department has extensive credible information that Kadyrov is responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press release issued on Monday.
The statement also notes that the State Department is “publicly designating” Kadyrov under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2020 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.
Reports of horrific anti-LGBTQ+ behavior by the Chechen government were first reported in 2017 by Russian news outlets, which printed accounts of queer survivors being detained, beaten, and tortured.
In 2018, an investigation was conducted by inter-governmental security group Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) into accounts that Chechnya was restraining and abusing LGBTQ+ citizens. While the investigation confirmed the existence of these exploitations of power, Chechen authorities have repeatedly denied these allegations, claiming the reports are false because there are no LGBTQ+ people in the country.
These sanctions follow similar guidelines as those imposed on the leader in 2017 under the Magnitsky Act, which allow authorities freeze the U.S. assets of human rights abuses. What differs this time around is that the guidelines apply to Kadyrov’s family — his wife and three children — as well as himself.
“Today’s action serves to notify Mr. Kadyrov that his involvement in gross violations of human rights has consequences, both for him and his family, and that the United States is committed to using all the tools at our disposal to ensure accountability for those who engage in this abhorrent behavior,” noted the press release.
The sanctions weren’t imposed without pushback from the leader. Kadyrov took to Russian social media network VKontakte to call U.S. officials “schemers, liars, and global provocateurs.”
“What crimes have they committed, and what rights have they violated?” he asked about his family’s involvement.
The Chechen also posted his anger on Telegram, an instant messaging platform. In it, the leader addresses Pompeo, and he attached a photograph of him holding two machine guns in a warehouse to the message.
“Pompeo, we accept the fight! The further it goes the more interesting it gets,” Kadyrov wrote in his post.
President Trump has not yet condemned Kadyrov’s actions and policy choices, and America has long been looked at for its inaction on the part of the LGBTQ+ community in Russia. Regardless, the State Department maintains that the government is still “committed to using all the tools at our disposal to ensure accountability for those who engage in this abhorrent behavior.”