Russian reporter returns to Moscow after Chechnya attack

Russian journalist and her lawyer were severely beaten and threatened with weapons in Chechnya.

Human Rights Commissioner in the Chechen Republic Mansur Soltaev visits Yelena Milashina, a journalist for the now-banned independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and lawyer Alexander Nemov in hospital after they were attacked on their way to the Chechen capital Grozny from the local airport, in Grozny, Russia July 4, 2023. Crew Against Torture/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT.
Elena Milashina, right, and lawyer Alexander Nemov, left, at a hospital after they were attacked [Crew Against Torture via Reuters]

An award-winning Russian investigative journalist was flown back to Moscow after being attacked in Chechnya and hospitalised with injuries.

Media advocates and rights groups voiced concern after Yelena Milashina said she was beaten and held at gunpoint with her lawyer during a work trip to the Chechen capital Grozny in southern Russia.

“Milashina is in Moscow in hospital. Her condition is, frankly, difficult. She was really severely beaten, beaten with a stick,” said Dmitry Muratov, editor of her paper, Novaya Gazeta.

Alexey Venediktov, former editor-in-chief of the disbanded Ekho Moskvy radio station, posted photos on Telegram showing Milashina and her lawyer, Alexander Nemov, in a small plane together flying back to Moscow.

Muratov said Milashina’s fingers had been broken after the attackers demanded access to her phone. The journalist also had her head shaved and green dye poured on her.

It remains unclear who the assailants were.

Milashina, 45, has won widespread acclaim for her investigative reporting, which included exposing the alleged torture and killings of gay people in Chechnya and other abuses by feared Chechen paramilitary forces.

In a video interview, the journalist said 10 to 15 attackers beat her with plastic pipes. Milashina said authorities routinely used such pipes to strike detainees in Chechnya, and she had written about the practice before.

She described how the assailants stopped the pair while driving. “They threw the driver out of the car, got in, bent our heads down, tied my hands, forced me down to my knees and put a gun to my head,” Milashina said.

Yelena Milashina
Yelena Milashina speaks on the phone at a hospital after she and lawyer Alexander Nemov were attacked [Crew Against Torture via Reuters]

‘Actions being taken’

In a different interview with the Russian rights group Team Against Torture, she said the attack was linked to her work with Nemov, adding the assailants told the lawyer: “You are defending too many people here. There is no need to defend anyone here.”

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said it would take time for a full investigation into the attack to be conducted.

“Let’s just wait. The reactions have all been voiced and now all actions are being taken,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said those responsible for Tuesday’s violence should be identified.

For years, Milashina has exposed human rights violations in Chechnya and has faced threats, intimidation, and attacks. In 2020, a dozen people beat her and another lawyer in a hotel lobby.

Since 2000, Novaya Gazeta has seen six of its journalists and contributors killed, including investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya who was shot dead in Moscow.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies