The mainly Muslim republic is run by Ramzan Kadyrov, a Kremlin-backed strongman, whose security forces are accused by human rights groups of abductions, killings and other abuses. They wanted to get names of my gay friends from me.
The Chechen crisis came to light in early April, after independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an expose revealing the location of a secret detention center that some USA media later referred to as a "gay concentration camp". The so-called "gay propaganda" law bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors, but is seen by rights groups as signaling that homophobia is tolerated in Russian Federation.
Novaya Gazeta, the paper that first reported the kidnappings and torture, said that Chechen clergy leaders and public figures passed a resolution calling the reports "absolute lies and slander" and urging "every sensible person to fight the spread of such baseness and provocation in all possible ways", adding later that these ways should be "lawful".
The reporter who first broke the story that gay men are being detained, tortured, and murdered in Chechen concentration camps has been forced to flee Moscow after threats, and is looking to flee Russian Federation entirely. Chechnya's LGBTQ "purge" is said to be on the agenda for the meeting.
Aside from government suppression, gay men in Chechnya also face severe social stigma.
President Kadyrov introduced Islamic rule in Chechnya.
Kadyrov on Wednesday denied that any homosexuals had been arrested, saying "provocative articles about Chechnya (have) reported so-called arrests. More than 30 people have already been provided with support".More news: Instagram for Android adding offline support soon
The men from Chechnya who spoke to CNN insisted their biggest concern was being outed as gay by the Chechen authorities.
Human rights defenders have said at least 100 men have been arrested in Chechnya, with many being rounded up and kept in concentration camps.
"By helping me, the Network has handed me a reprieve - but they'll find me in the end", he says quietly.
Russia's Prosecutor-General's office formally opened an investigation on Monday but Russia's human rights ombudswoman Tatyana Moskalkova told TASS state news agency there had been no reports of such missing people to police, investigators or prosecutors.
"These are acts of persecution and violence on an unprecedented scale in the region, and constitute serious violations of the obligations of the Russian Federation under worldwide human rights law". Elena Milashina, the Novaya Gazeta reporter who first broke the story, has fled her home in Moscow because of threats that both she and the newspaper have received.