A new attack against a journalist in Russia has once again put on the table the dangers of reporting on what happens in Chechnya. Elena Milashinaa well-known newspaper journalist Novaya Gazeta he was traveling to the Chechen capital, Grozny, from the city’s airport with lawyer Alexander Nemov, when they came under attack. The attackers shaved Milashina’s head, broke several of her fingers and covered her head with green antiseptic. While they were being beaten, they were told: “You have been warned. Get out of here and don’t write anything.”
“They were brutally kicked, even in the face, threatened with death, they pointed a gun to their heads and took away and destroyed their equipment,” said the Memorial human rights organization in a statement on Telegram. “Several masked people have beaten Elena and Alexander, they took their phones demanding that they unlock them, they destroyed their equipment and their documents. They beat them with sticks and kicked them,” he confirmed. Novaya Gazeta it’s a statement.
The newspaper (which with the start of the war lost its license to operate in Russia) has been persecuted for years by the Putin regime. Your readers too. In each report they include a note for the user: “We remind you that ‘Novaya Gazeta Europa’ has been declared undesirable. Do not link us on social networks if you are in Russia.”
A photo of Milashina posted on social media showed her sitting on a hospital bed with her face covered in a green antiseptic substance (a common method in the old USSR to shame dissidents), a shaved head, and bandages on his left arm and right hand.
Focusing on rights abuses in Chechnya, Milashina has followed in the footsteps of Anna Politkovskayaa journalist very critical of the policies of the Kremlin in the Caucasus, who was shot dead in 2006. Milashina, who has investigated what she said was the mass arrest and torture of gay men in the region, was evacuated by Novaya Gazeta from Russia last year after Kadyrov described her as a “terrorist” in a social media post.
But Milashina and Nemov were back in Chechnya to cover the sentence against Zarema Musayeva, a Chechen woman accused of assaulting a police officer. For a long time, Nemov acted as an advocate in the case of this 53-year-old woman who was kidnapped by Chechen security forces and accused of using violence against a government official and fraud. “The defense is waiting for the acquittal by the Zarema court,” wrote the lawyer a few hours before the start of the hearing. Shortly before noon, a Grozny district court sentenced Musaeva to five and a half years in prison.
Milashina and Nemov did not attend. The car they were traveling in was blocked by armed men in three cars. They were badly beaten, their equipment and documents were stolen.
After the attack, the victims were taken to hospital. Milashina was diagnosed with a closed head injury, the fingers of both her hands were broken. She apparently broke them when they insisted that she provide the unlock code for her mobile. “They tied my hands, they put me on my knees, they put a gun to my head,” the victim herself said from the hospital. Nemov was stabbed in the leg.
Elena Milashina has been working at Novaya Gazeta for more than 25 years, since 1997. According to his colleagues, he came to the newspaper with the intention of writing about animals and culture, “but life had other plans.” Few like her have revealed what’s behind Kadirov’s brutal regime.
The journalist has also recently inquired about the role of Kadirov and the Wagner in the fight for power. On the day of the Prigozhin mutiny, Milashina wrote that in the coming days there was a risk of confrontation between the Chechens and wagnerity. The journalist published a report on how these two armies and why a showdown could be a disaster for Russia.
Almost two hours after Putin’s speech to the citizens of Russia about Prigozhin’s betrayal, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadirov, made a statement: in the same vein as Putin, he called what was happening “a heinous betrayal” that supposed “a stab in the back”. Like Putin, he did not name his ally, with whom he had recently sided even in criticism of the Defense Ministry leadership.
Milashina is convinced that the break of this “alliance” was absolutely scheduled. “This is not a mistake of two passionate personalities, but a conflict of two completely different survival strategies.”
Last summer, with a deceptive calm at the front, most of the kadirovitas mobilized in Ukraine returned to the Chechen Republic. But already at the end of August, when it became clear that the Ukrainian army had become more active, Kadyrov was forced to urgently transfer to Ukraine the battalions that had just been created in Chechnya, directly subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. “Recruitment for these new military units turned out to be a failure. A year ago, the Chechens would have stood in a huge queue to join the Russian army, but now it was impossible to summon them there with gingerbread,” Milashina said.
The Chechen battalions ended up under the command of General Alexander Lapin, against whom on October 1 Kadyrov issued a famous and defiant statement criticizing the general’s command style (without explaining what his soldiers were doing, involved in those withdrawals). Kadirov’s example opened new horizons for Prigozhin, who in the end went too far. When Prigozhin, in a head-on clash with the top of the Defense Ministry, began indiscriminately emphasizing his own indispensability at the expense of all his allies, Kadyrov took umbrage. And there began a struggle to appropriate certain achievements at the front.
Furthermore, Prigozhin wanted martial law and the economy of war, directing all spending towards the Ukrainian offensive. But Kadirov is a subsidized viceroy, the republic from him received “unprecedented help from the Russian federal budget.” And he doesn’t want to lose her.
Both armed leaders were definitively at odds when the Ministry of Defense ordered that all participants in volunteer formations (or the mercenary formations themselves) must sign a contract with the Ministry of War before July 1. A dead end for Prigozhin, but not for Kadirov.
KADIROV: “WE ARE GOING TO SOLVE IT”
Kadirov reacted in the early afternoon saying that he had instructed the competent authorities to identify those involved in the attack. However, it was he who at the beginning of last year openly threatened Milashina, calling the journalist a “terrorist” and “accomplice of terrorists” and demanding her arrest. “We are going to solve it. I ordered the competent services to do everything possible to identify the attackers,” Kadirov said today. “We are talking about a very serious attack that requires quite strong measures,” said Dimitri Peskov, press secretary to the president of the Russian Federation.
“Both were kicked, punched, reminded of their work, the courts, the trials, everything that Elena Milashina wrote. Clearly, this is not an attack by gangsters, it is an attack for their activities,” explained the head of the NGO Team Against Torture, Sergei Babinets, who went to the hospital with Milashina and Nemov, who are being treated in Beslan, in the neighboring Republic of North Ossetia. Milashina has lost consciousness several times while she was making the first statements. Both can barely walk.
Babinets believes that the attack is “in general, due to the publications of Elena Milashina, which are completely truthful and not complimentary to the Government of the Chechen Republic.” “There is the truth about what was happening with human rights,” she added.