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Story highlights

Ramzan Kadryov has been a leader in Chechnya for years

He was interviewed in Grozny by an HBO sports program

(CNN) —  

Chechnya’s leader sharply derided gays during a TV interview, asserting that there are none in his Russian republic and saying they should be removed from the region if there are.

Ramzan Kadyrov made his remarks on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” amid allegations of a brutal crackdown on gay men in the North Caucasus region.

“This is nonsense,” Kadyrov said.

“We don’t have such people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

Kadyrov, who also spoke about his aim of creating a world-class professional mixed martial arts fight club, vociferously attacked claims of repression.

Witnesses have told CNN that hundreds of gay men have been held and abused in detention centers because of their sexual orientation. In April, a Chechen government spokesman called the allegations of a crackdown “an absolute lie,” and denied that gay men exist in the republic.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but homophobia and discrimination is still common.

HBO reporter David Scott asks Kadyrov whether it concerns him “as a matter of law and order” when he hears stories of abuse and torture.

“They made it up. They are devils, They are for sale. They are subhuman. … They will have to answer to the almightly for this,” Kadyrov said.

The interview, conducted in the republic’s capital of Grozny, will be aired on Tuesday.

A European court has ruled last month that Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda law” is discriminatory, promotes homophobia and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

The law bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations around minors” and was justified by Russia’s Duma as a necessary measure to protect children from homosexual influence.

Kadryov has stifled all forms of dissent and has subdued the separatist movement that fought the Russian army for nearly two decades. “Prostitution, drugs and gays are the poison of our time. How can Russia support gay clubs?” he said in a 2009 newspaper interview.

“There is a whole system aimed at weakening the country, the will, honor, and spirit,” Kadyrov said, regarding what he believes are vices.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted to the new interview, saying Kadryov made “harsh remarks” but noted that his words are often taken out of context.

“Nothing out of the unusual was said there,” Peskov said, according to the official Russian news agency Tass.