Journalist Brutally Attacked in Chechnya While Reporting on Controversial Trial

news 04-Jul-2023 Politcs

Journalist brutally beaten in Russia

Russian investigative reporter Elena Milashina was brutally attacked and severely injured by unknown assailants in Chechnya. The journalist had intended to report on a high-profile trial in Grozny. Accompanied by lawyer Alexander Nemov, she was planning to attend the sentencing of Sarema Musayeva. Nemov was the defense attorney for the accused. Musayeva, a 53-year-old woman married to a prominent judge and mother of three sons, had fallen out of favor with the republic's leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, due to her critical stance. Milashina, who had extensively covered the case for the now-banned newspaper "Novaya Gazeta," referred to the defendant as a hostage of the Chechen regime.

Dragged out of the car and beaten to the point of hospitalization

Milashina and Nemov were en route from the airport to the court when masked men forced their driver to stop. Both Milashina and Nemov were beaten to the point of requiring hospitalization. Following orders from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, they were transported to a hospital in Beslan, located in the neighboring republic of North Ossetia.

There, Milashina informed the Chechen Ombudsman Mansur Solayev, "It was a classic abduction. They forced our car to the side of the road, threw out the taxi driver, got into the car with us, and tried to bind our hands together," she said. "Then they forced us to kneel and held guns to our heads. They were quite nervous."

The attackers were extremely brutal in their approach. Milashina suffered multiple broken fingers and a traumatic brain injury, while Nemov sustained several bone fractures in addition to a stab wound. According to the banned Russian human rights organization Memorial, the masked men destroyed their equipment and obliterated all documents. Sergey Babinets from the Russian human rights organization "Team against Torture" sees a clear connection to the trial that the two journalists were en route to. "They were beaten with hands, feet, and plastic pipes," explained Babinets. "They were accused because of their activities: their work and the court proceedings they attended. Also because of what Elena Milashina had written about it."

Five and a half years of imprisonment in a penal colony

Investigative reporter Milashina and lawyer Nemov intended to attend the sentencing of Musayeva. One of her three sons is the founder and administrator of the Telegram channel "Adat," which the Chechen authorities deemed extremist. Due to the increasing danger they faced in Chechnya, the family had left the region and were residing in Nizhny Novgorod. However, representatives of the Chechen authorities abducted Musayeva from there and brought her to Grozny.

Today, she was sentenced to five and a half years in a penal colony. She had been accused of alleged fraud and assaulting a police officer. Observers described the charges as fabricated, asserting Musayeva's innocence.

Russian lawmakers respond with outrage

In Russia, several lawmakers responded with outrage to the attack on the journalist and the lawyer of the defendant. They called for an investigation by the Prosecutor General's Office. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov promptly responded, stating that President Putin had been informed about the case. "Certainly, an examination is necessary, as well as the implementation of investigative measures regarding this attack," he said.

For journalists, conducting research in Chechnya is extremely dangerous. Brutal assaults are not uncommon, and journalists have been murdered in the past. Milashina had previously been threatened with death by Chechen leader Kadyrov in 2020. The journalist has been conducting research in Chechnya for years and has frequently reported critically on the region.

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