Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has denied rumours of state involvement in the disappearance of pop star Zelimkhan Bakaev.

Missing since August, the singer is feared to be a victim of the gay purge that Chechen officials continue to deny, Out in Perth has reported.

Kadyrov, who has previously said he would defend families who killed their gay relatives, this week publicly suggested that Bakaev’s own family may have murdered him.

“His relatives, who didn’t keep an eye on him and were ashamed that he was one of them, now say that [I] took him,” Kadyrov said in a television appearance.

“His family couldn’t stop him, and then called him back home, and his brothers, it seems, accused him of being one of those [homosexuals].”

Bakaev’s family have denied any involvement in his disappearance.

Reports of gay concentration camps and executions in Chechnya began in late 2016, and have been consistently refuted by authorities, despite an increasing number of accounts from men who say they have escaped after being tortured.

The Russian LGBT Network is continuing to evacuate gay and bisexual men from the region, and even Grindr warns users in the area to exercise caution.

Chechnya has just been hit by sanctions from the US in response to the reported concentration camps.

The journalist who first broke the story of the alleged LGBTI human rights abuses, Elena Milashina, last month received the Louis M Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism from Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation.

Her work was praised as “important and inspirational”, and representative of the courage of independent Russian journalists in the face of real danger.

Milashina was last year forced into hiding after breaking the story of the Chechen gay purge.

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