Chechen authorities used siblings to impersonate their dead brothers in order to cover up extrajudicial killings, a Russian newspaper revealed.

The Novaya Gazeta newspaper and Memorial, a human rights group, reported a wave of extrajudicial killings in early 2017.

Some of the men were reportedly murdered by local law enforcement on suspicion of being gay.

The newspaper published a list of 27 people - corroborated by Memorial - it says were kidnapped and killed by Chechen security agencies in 2017 and called on authorities to investigate.

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The predominantly Muslim region of Chechnya in the North Caucasus has been scarred by two devastating separatist wars in the Nineties.

The Kremlin eventually regained control of the region thanks to Akhmat Kadyrov, a former rebel, who was assassinated in 2004 and was later succeeded by his son Ramzan who has since ruled Chechnya with an iron fist.

Kadyrov has vehemently denied numerous reports of torture and killings by his security forces.

High-ranking federal officials including Tatyana Moskalkova, the Russian human rights commissioner, went to Chechnya in 2017 to investigate the reports of extrajudicial killings.

To debunk the reports, Chechen authorities invited Moskalkova to meet two men from the execution list. However, Novaya Gazeta revealed that the men she met were in fact the victims' siblings.

The paper reviewed unpublished footage of Moskalkova's meeting in Grozny, the Chechen capital, and said that it did not match pictures of the killed men, which led it to believe that investigators put pressure on the men to impersonate their siblings.

The newspaper said it did not try to contact the families of the killed men, fearing for their safety. Retaliation against anyone who speaks out against Kadyrov and his forces is common.

In 2017, federal investigators refused to launch a criminal inquiry into reports of extrajudicial killings, saying that at least two men on the list, Shamkhan Yusupov and Makhma Muskiyev, were alive and well.

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Moskalkova's office said there was no reason not to trust the men who she met in Grozny with their passports, but added that the newspaper's report was "serious enough" to look into.

Kadyrov's office was not immediately available for comment.