Vilnius, Lithuania, February 7, 2020 — Russian authorities should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the attack against journalist Elena Milashina and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday evening, a group of unidentified people attacked Milashina, an investigative reporter for the independent daily Novaya Gazeta, and a human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina in Grozny, the capital of the Russian North Caucasus region of Chechnya, according to a report by her employer and Milashina, who spoke to CPJ from Grozny in a phone interview.
When Milashina and Dubrovina entered their hotel yesterday, a group of about 15 people were waiting for them in the lobby, Milashina said. Several people from the group, mainly women, “threw us to the ground, smashed us with their arms, and kicked us; they pulled my hair, hit my head on the marble floor,” Milashina told CPJ. She said the men in the group stood nearby and filmed the attack.
Milashina said she visited a hospital after the attack and filed a complaint with the Chechen police. She told CPJ her whole body was in pain and that she had bruises and scratches on her face and pain across her whole body. She posted a photo of her bruised head on Facebook.
In her statement to police, which Milashina posted Facebook, the journalist said she believed the attack was linked to her work, as she had been threatened by Chechen authorities before, and by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov personally.
“Russian federal authorities should investigate what appears to be an organized attack against prominent investigative journalist Elena Milashina, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Milashina has reported on human rights abuses in Chechnya and it is important that her safety is ensured by the authorities at the federal level. Novaya Gazeta has lost too many of its correspondents because of their stellar reporting.”
In a phone call with CPJ, an official in the Chechen Interior Ministry’s department in Grozny said that authorities were investigating the incident. He declined to elaborate on the investigation or to give his name.
Milashina and Dubrovina had travelled to Grozny to attend a trial of local blogger Islam Nukhanov, who posted critical blogs about President Kadyrov and has been charged with illegal weapons possession, according to Novaya Gazeta and other media reports. Milashina told CPJ she left Grozny today to return to Moscow, one day earlier than she had planned.
In 2017, Milashina reported in Novaya Gazeta on an alleged campaign of kidnapping, torture, and killing of gay men in Chechnya. She had to leave Russia for several months following the publication of those articles, in response to death threats, CPJ documented at the time.
Following the publication of those articles, an adviser to President Kadyrov accused Novaya Gazeta and reporter Adam Shahidov of defamation and threatened retaliation against the reporter and the paper, CPJ documented at the time.
Milashina previously worked as a Russia correspondent for CPJ.