In April, Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on secret prisons in Chechnya where gay men were allegedly detained and tortured.

In an interview with U.S. television network HBO last month, Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov dismissed reports the persecution saying there are no gay men the region. “The reports [on the persecution of gay men in Chechnya] are nonsense,” Kadyrov told the interviewer. “We don’t have any gays.”

But, he added, if “there are any take them to Canada, praise be to God. Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”