In Russia’s North Caucasus region, reporter Yelena Milashina from Novaya Gazeta and lawyer Alexander Nemov were subjected to an attack and physical assault in Chechnya. The newspaper’s editorial office shared on social media that they were ambushed by unknown assailants wearing masks while traveling from the airport to Grozny. The attackers violently beat them, destroyed their equipment and documents. Both the journalist and the lawyer are currently receiving medical treatment in a hospital in Grozny, as confirmed by a Russian human rights organization. The Russian Union of Journalists and the Human Rights Council under President Vladimir Putin’s office have expressed interest in the case, according to the state-run TASS news agency.
Vladimir Solovyov, the head of the journalists’ union, expressed his hope that those responsible for the attack would face consequences. He emphasized that attacks on journalists are unacceptable and expects law enforcement to diligently pursue the culprits, as he conveyed to TASS.
Last February, Milashina made the decision to leave Russia due to personal death threats made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is known to be a close ally of Putin. The journalist incurred Kadyrov’s anger by reporting on extrajudicial killings in the autonomous republic and by covering the case of former Chechen Supreme Court judge Saydi Jangulbayev, who had displeased Kadyrov. Thanks to his previous exile status in Russia, the judge remains safe.
However, last January, Jangulbayev’s wife, Zarema Musayeva, was abducted by Chechen commandos from Nizhny Novgorod and taken to Chechnya. According to Musayeva’s son, numerous relatives have also disappeared without a trace. The Chechen Interior Ministry claims that Musayeva was brought in as a witness for questioning related to a fraud case, while Kadyrov asserts that she had previously attacked a policeman in Chechnya and nearly caused him serious harm. The state prosecutor is seeking a prison sentence of 5 years for Musayeva, but she denies any wrongdoing and has been in custody for over a year.
Milashina and Nemov traveled to the Chechen capital for Musayeva’s sentencing. Their vehicle was blocked on the road from the airport by three cars with armed individuals who subsequently attacked them. Doctors in Grozny discovered numerous bruises, and the journalist’s fingers were reported to be broken, as per the information from the organization Team Against Torture, formerly known as the Committee Against Torture, cited by Kommersant newspaper.
As a reporter for Novaya Gazeta, Milashina extensively covered topics such as drug trade, counter-terrorism efforts, and the murder of journalists. She was involved in the investigation of the assassination of Kremlin and Kadyrov critic Anna Politkovskaya. Kommersant recalled that Milashina had previously survived an assassination attempt in Beslan back in 2006.