German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday said she had urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to ensure the protection of gay rights, particularly in Chechnya where dozens of people have allegedly been tortured and arrested in an anti-homosexual crackdown, BBC reported. Merkel discussed the matter with Putin at his summer residence in Sochi, during her first visit to the country since 2015.

“Torture is going on with electric shocks, beatings with cables. All the people arrested are homosexual men or perceived as being gay,” she told the BBC, adding that three deaths have been reported. A Chechen government spokesman, Alvi Karimov, however denied the allegations. “You cannot detain and repress people who simply do not exist in the republic,” he said.

In March, Russian LGBT Network’s Natalia Popleskaya had alleged that there was an organised campaign to detain homosexual men in Chechnya. She said those targeted by the campaign were being held at a detention centre.

Homophobia is prevalent in the troubled region that is ruled by Putin loyalist Ramzan Kadyrov.

In March, a Russian lawmaker had said that Disney musical Beauty and the Beast propagated homosexuality and, hence, should be banned in the country. In 2013, the country declared it illegal to educate minors about homosexuality. Even though homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, the Bill passed in 2013 described homosexuality as “non-traditional sexual relations”.

Ties between Germany and Russia have suffered over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine and its role in Syria.