Russian journalist Yelena Milashina and lawyer Alexander Nemov were attacked and beaten by masked men in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, last Tuesday (4). The attack took place shortly after they left the city’s airport, when their car was intercepted and hooded men attacked them with kicks and batons. Their phones were taken and they were asked to unlock them; their equipment and documents were destroyed.
The head of the Team Against Torture, Serguei Babinets, quoted by the Meduza portal, declared that, during the attack, the attackers “reminded Milashina and Nemov of all their trials and cases” in which they were involved. “This is clearly not a gang attack, but an attack on their activities,” he stressed.
A reporter from the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, known in Russia for its critical and investigative coverage, and the lawyer arrived in Grozny to follow the sentencing of Zarema Musaeva, who is the mother of Abubakar Yangulbaev, a former lawyer for the Committee Against Torture, and Ibragim Yangulbaev , one of the alleged founders of the Chechen opposition movement Adat.
In January 2022, Chechen security forces kidnapped Musaeva in Nizhny Novgorod and took her to Chechnya. She was accused of assaulting a police officer. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that during the transfer from Nizhny Novgorod, Musaeva allegedly “attacked a policeman and nearly hit her in the eye”.
Around the same time, Kadyrov, a former Putin ally, called Novaya Gazeta journalist and human rights activist Igor Kalyapin “terrorists” and “accomplices of terrorists” for their connection to the case and urged law enforcement agencies to detain them. After Kadyrov’s threats, Milashina announced that she would temporarily leave Russia.
After Tuesday’s attack, Milashina and Nemov were taken to a local hospital. The Russian journalist was diagnosed with a craniocerebral injury, had her fingers broken and green paint was thrown over her body. It was reported by Novaya Gazeta that Milashina lost consciousness several times, noting that doctors failed to hand over Milashina’s MRI results. Nemov, in addition to injuries, received a stab wound. Both were transported to Moscow after the first treatments.
On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the attack on the journalist and lawyer a “serious incident” that “requires vigorous action”.
The attack on Milashina and Nemov also reverberated in the Russian Parliament, the Union of Journalists and the Human Rights Council of the President of the Russian Federation. Senator Andrey Klishas said “the attack on the journalist and lawyer in Chechnya requires a tough response from law enforcement agencies”. Deputy Alexander Khinshtein wrote that “attacks on journalists (regardless of their position) are criminal and unacceptable”. Eva Merkacheva, of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, called the situation “outrageous” and said she had prepared “a court order for Ramzan Kadyrov”. Another member of the Human Rights Council, Alexander Brod, spoke about the “flagrant incident” and said he was preparing an appeal to the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation.
The mother of Chechen opponents, Zarema Musaeva, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for fraud and attacking police officers.
Editing: Thales Schmidt