'We Don't Have Any Gays': Chechen Leader's Remarks Concern White House

Image: Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov speaks to journalists in Chechnya's provincial capital Grozny, Russia on Dec. 28, 2015. Musa Sadulayev / AP, file
By Associated Press and Brooke Sopelsa

MOSCOW — The White House says it's concerned by remarks made by the leader of Chechnya, who suggested any gay people in his Russian republic should be shipped to Canada.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has faced international criticism since a Russian newspaper reported this spring that his security forces had detained some 100 gay men, torturing or killing some of them. The Associated Press has spoken to some of the victims.

In an interview that aired on HBO Tuesday, Kadyrov insisted there are no gay people in Chechnya and referred to them as "devils" and "subhuman."

"We don’t have any gays," he said during the "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" interview. "If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise by to God. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the State Department found these remarks "very concerning and also upsetting." Nauert said Washington has raised the issue with Russian officials "at the highest levels."

Follow NBC Out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram