The White House has said it is concerned about anti-gay comments made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Appearing on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Kadyrov was asked about reports that some 100 gay men have been arrested and brutally tortured in the Russian republic. Some of the victims have come forward to talk to reporters about the persecution they faced.

“This is nonsense,” Kadyrov answered. “We don't have these kinds of people here. We don't have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada.”

“Praise be to God. Take them far from us so we don't have them at home. To purify our blood. If they are any here, take them,” he added.

Reports of a gay purge in Chechnya began to surface in April. The campaign has reportedly resulted in the deaths of 26 men suspected of being gay since the start of this year.

HBO released portions of the interview before it aired the episode on Tuesday.

According to the AP, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday that the department found Kadyrov's comments “very concerning and also upsetting.” She added that the issue had been raised with Russian officials “at the highest levels.”

(Related: Rex Tillerson has not raised the issue of attacks on gay men in Chechnya with Russia.)