Prominent investigative journalist Yelena Milashina has been badly beaten and had fingers broken by masked men as she travelled to a court in Grozny, Chechnya, on Monday morning. The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) condemn this brutal beating and demand an investigation into this vicious attack.
Yelena Milashina, who writes for Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was travelling with a lawyer, Alexander Nemov. Their car was stopped by three cars with armed men as they drove to the capital, Grozny, to witness the trial of the wife of a former judge of the Republic’s Supreme Court. “It was a classic kidnapping,” said Milashina. “They pinned down then threw our driver out of his car, climbed in, bent our heads down, tied my hands, forced me to my knees and put a pistol to my head.”
Her employer said she had suffered an internal brain injury and had fingers broken. She also had her head shaved and her face doused in green dye. Photographs showed Milashina after the attack in a hospital bed with both hands bandaged in gauze and her head and face covered in a green dye called zelyonka that was thrown on her during the attack.
The Russian rights group Memorial said on Telegram that Milashina and Nemov had been “brutally kicked, including in the face, threatened with death, had a gun held to their heads, and had their equipment taken away and smashed. While being beaten, they were told: ‘You have been warned. Get out of here and don’t write anything’”.
“This vicious attack came just twenty years after the suspicious death of one of the founders of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Yuri Shchekochikhin, who was obviously poisoned to prevent him from continuing to do his job,” said Andrei Jvirblis, secretary of the independent journalists’ union JMWU, the EFJ-IFJ Russian affiliate. “Twenty years later, all the country’s notable media outlets have been forced to close. The smaller ones operate under a yoke of brutal censorship. Many of our members have been forced to leave the country. Those who continue to do their work, like Yelena Milashina, are real heroes who give us hope.”
Yelena Milashina fled Russia for some time in February 2022 after Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, called her a terrorist, adding that “we have always eliminated terrorists and their accomplices”.
In April 2020, Kadyrov directed death threats at Milashina for reporting about human rights violations in Chechnya.