Rumors are spreading that a gay Russian singer has been arrested and killed as a result of what human rights organizations are calling the "anti-gay purge" in the country's conservative Chechnya region.
Zelimkhan Bakaev, 26, has been missing since Aug. 8, according to Logo's news website NewNowNext. He was last seen in the city of Grozny within the Chechnya region, where he had visited to attend his sister's wedding. Family or friends have not heard from Bakaev since he's been missing.
Newsweek reports that an Instagram account in the singer's name last posted on Aug. 15. It has since been deactivated.
Two videos posted on YouTube in late September added to the confusion about where Bakaev is. The videos, which were posted by a user who hasn't posted anything else, show a man resembling the singer recording a message to his friend named Islam, telling him he is having a good time in Germany. The man is also shown dancing and smoking a hookah, Newsweek reports.
"There is absolutely nothing to do in Grozny or Moscow because there are a lot of a*sholes," the man says, according to NewNowNext. "Here people are absolutely different -- you go out, everyone smiles at you. Absolutely different outlook."
People have suggested the video is fake, pointing out that the furniture and energy drinks in the background are Russian and cannot be found in Germany.
Officials in Chechnya denied that authorities had taken him in August, Newsweek reports. According to NewNowNext, a Russian television station reported that Bakaev wrote to his mother on WhatsApp in September before turning off his phone.
On Oct. 20, NewNowNext reported that a source close to activists in the region that Bakaev had been beaten to death.
It's unclear exactly what is going on in Chechnya, although reports have been circulating since April that dozens of gay men in the region are being arrested and severely beaten by authorities.
The head of Russia’s LGBT Network Igor Kochetkov said in October that several people claim to have been beaten into confessing being intimate with Bakayev, Newsweek reports. Kochetkov believes Bakayev's disappearance has something to do with what the Human Rights Watch described as an "anti-gay purge."
On Oct. 16, the first man to claim to be a victim of the gay purge came forward. Maxim Lapunov said he was arrested by Chechen plainclothes officers on March 16. He said he was locked in a bloody cellar and beaten several times after being named by other victims.
Lapunov, 30, was released after 12 days on the condition he sign a blank confession and remain quiet about his arrest.
"The only charge they made was that I was gay," he said in a press conference. "I could hardly walk. I was sure they were going to kill me, I was preparing for that."
Lapunov says the screams of other victims still haunt his dreams. Unlike others, he is not a native of Chechnya, which is why he was able to come forward without fearing for his family's safety.