Elena Milashina, an investigative reporter who covers human rights abuses, fled Russia on February 3, 2022, after threats made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. (Elena Milashina)

Investigative reporter Elena Milashina flees Russia after threats from Chechen leader 

Paris, February 8, 2022 — Russian authorities should ensure the safety of journalist Elena Milashina and promptly investigate threats made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov against Milashina and the independent media, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Editors at independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta decided to send Milashina, an investigative reporter for the outlet who covers human rights abuses in Chechnya, abroad following threats Kadyrov made against her and a rise in political rhetoric in Chechnya denouncing independent outlets Novaya Gazeta and Dozhd TV, according to a February 3 Novaya Gazeta statement and Milashina, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

The statements from Chechen officials came after Milashina and Igor Kalyapin, founder of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, a nongovernmental advocacy group, reported on the case of a former federal judge and his family who allegedly were subject to threats by the Chechen authorities, according to multiple reports. Dozhd TV also contributed coverage to the case.

“We call on federal authorities in Russia to take threats made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov against journalist Elena Milashina seriously and hold him and other Chechen officials accountable,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Milashina, Novaya Gazeta, and Dozhd TV do the crucial work of shedding light on Chechnya, and should not be hindered, let alone threatened. Russian authorities must ensure Milashina’s safe return.”

In a January 23 Telegram post, Kadyrov called Milashina a “terrorist,” demanded her arrest, and accused her of “making money off the subject of the Chechen Republic and the Chechens,” adding that Chechen authorities “always destroy terrorists and their accomplices, and will continue to do so in the future.”

On January 31, Novaya Gazeta announced it was filing a complaint with the Russian Investigative Committee, asking for a criminal investigation into the Chechen leader under Article 282 of the criminal code on “incitement to hatred.”

On February 1, Kadyrov published a video in the Russian social media network Vkontakte in which he referred to journalists at Novaya Gazeta and Dozhd TV as “terrorists” and called for criminal proceedings against them.

On February 2, Ismail Denilkhanov, chairman of the Chechen Public Chamber, spoke at a rally in the Chechen capital Grozny, where he said Novaya Gazeta and Dozhd TV must be shut down and called them “enemy media,” according to news reports

Later that day, liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy, in solidarity with Novaya Gazeta and Dozhd TV, appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Telegram to “get involved” in the situation.

In an interview Milashina gave to Dozhd TV on February 4, she said the Novaya Gazeta editorial board considered the threat to her personal safety “high.”

On February 8, Dozhd TV announced it had also filed a complaint to the Investigative Committee regarding Kadyrov’s threats.

This is not the first time that Kadyrov has threatened Milashina, a former CPJ Russia correspondent, or that she has had to flee Moscow following threats from Chechen officials, as CPJ documented, in 2020 and 2017, respectively. She was also attacked during her 2020 reporting trip in capital Grozny and beaten in Moscow in 2012, as CPJ documented.