GROZNY, Russia — Authorities in Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya are claiming they removed a woman against her will from a shelter for domestic abuse victims in order to "to prevent her abduction" by local human rights activists.
Khalimat Taramova, the daughter of a close associate of Chechnya's authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was forcibly taken by police on June 10 from the shelter in Makhachkala, the capital of Russia's neighboring region of Daghestan.
Authorities promptly returned Taramova to her native Chechnya, where rights activists warn she is at risk of becoming a victim of a so-called "honor killing."
In a video published online earlier last week by rights activists, Taramova said she'd fled her home in Chechnya due to "regular beatings and threats" she received there.
In an effort to prevent police from searching for her, she'd pleaded in the video for authorities not to add her to Chechnya's missing persons list.
Activists with Russia's LGBT Network said Taramova fled her home because she was being intimidated for her sexual orientation.
Rights defenders in Daghestan told RFE/RL that Taramova had been staying at the shelter with her girlfriend, whom the LGBT Network identified as Anna Manylova.
But Akhmed Dudayev — Chechnya's minister for national politics, external ties, and information — gave a conflicting version of the situation in a statement broadcast by state television on June 13.
Dudayev claimed that "well-coordinated and professional efforts of police in Chechnya and Daghestan" had prevented "an attempt to abduct" Taramova.
"There were no violations of law by law enforcement or relatives of Khalimat Taramova," Dudayev said.
The Chechen minister also claimed Taramova has "health issues" and "was regularly treated in our medical institutions."
"We fully understand that those who ordered these provocative actions against the Chechen Republic, who are also based in Western countries, are concerned that rights and freedoms in the Chechen Republic are well-respected and guaranteed by Ramzan Kadyrov," Dudayev said.
Dudayev described human rights activists as "a fifth column in Russia" that works for the enemies of the country.
He also claimed there are no homosexuals in Chechnya. he accused rights activists of trying to invent "some sort of minorities" that "do not exist here and have never been here."
Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya for more than a decade, is frequently accused by Russian and international groups of overseeing grave rights abuses that include abductions, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
Chechnya was the site of a so-called "gay purge" in 2017 in which dozens of homosexual men say they were abducted and tortured by Chechen authorities.