Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov has denied allegations of severe human rights abuses against gay men in the republic, saying none live there.
This year more than 200 men have reportedly been rounded up, detained and tortured in Chechnya, most of them gay, according to the local Novaya Gazeta. At least three are reported to have died.
One man, on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press he and others were tortured for information about other LGBT people in the community.
"We were beaten [so badly] that some people had open wounds on the body. And after several days many people smelled like rotten meat," he said.
At the time, the government had a chilling response.
"You can't detain and repress people who simply don't exist in the republic," Chechen government spokesperson Alvi Karimov said.
Now its leader has doubled down on the denials. Mr Kadyrov called those making the accusations "devils" in a TV interview, dismissing the claims as nonsense.
"We don't have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada," he said.
"[Chechnya] doesn't have the phenomenon called non-traditional sexual orientation."
There have been calls for Russian authorities to investigate the allegations, in a country that has stringent anti-LGBT laws.
Russian president Vladimir Putin said he would support an investigation into the alleged torturing. No investigation has yet been launched.