Russia's human rights monitor has cast doubt on the credibility of reports of homophobic brutality in the southern republic of Chechnya.
Local reports suggest Chechen police rounded up 100 gay men in an operation which left three people dead, while it has even been claimed Nazi-style concentration camps have been opened to kill and torture homosexuals.
But Moscow's human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova has suggested the reports could be deliberately misleading.
"I have a feeling it could be a provocation, a false denunciation," Moskalkova told a State Duma committee, according to Interfax.
"We should go the full distance... I am not ready yet to draw conclusions, yet conclusions should be drawn. Were people really hurt or did someone try to speculate on the issue?"
Moskalkova also said she had made a total of five inquiries within the limits of her powers, including to the Chechen prosecution services, but no single crime had emerged.
However the monitor said she could "pay a visit, make an inquiry and view their documents" to find out more, while insisting Russia has "a mechanism to protect people who are afraid."
Moskalkova also revealed that several foreign officials had contacted her to inquire about the reports from Chechnya - including the British ambassador and the UN High Reperesentative for Human Rights.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has also said there is no truth to the reports of anti-gay violence in his republic, claiming there is not a single gay person in Chechnya.