Elena Milashina, an investigative reporter who covers human rights abuses, was beaten by unidentified attackers in Chechnya on July 4, 2023.(Elena Milashina)

Journalist Elena Milashina severely beaten in Chechnya

New York, July 4, 2023—In response to Tuesday’s attack on journalist Elena Milashina and lawyer Aleksandr Nemov in the Russian republic of Chechnya, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“The brutal and shocking assault of Russian journalist Elena Milashina and lawyer Aleksandr Nemov in Chechnya serves as yet another reminder of the region’s appalling human rights and press freedom record,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Russian authorities should immediately investigate this attack, find the culprits, and hold them to account.”

Milashina, an investigative reporter with the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta who covers human rights in Chechnya, arrived in Grozny early Tuesday, July 4, to cover a court case in which Nemov was representing the defendant.

On their way from the airport, three cars intercepted a cab carrying the journalist and lawyer. About a dozen masked men forced them from their vehicle, kicked them, and beat them with batons in the body and face, according to multiple media reports and reports by Novaya Gazeta and the Russian rights group Memorial.

The attackers destroyed their equipment and documents, shaved Milashina’s head, and doused her face in green dye. They threatened to kill Milashina and Nemov, putting a gun to both of their heads head and saying, “You were warned. Get out of here and don’t write anything.”

Both victims were taken to a hospital in Grozny before being transferred to a hospital in Beslan, in North Ossetia. Milashina was diagnosed with a brain injury and three broken fingers, which she sustained after refusing to unlock her phone.

Nemov suffered multiple fractures throughout his body and a stab wound in the leg. As of Tuesday afternoon, Nemov had difficulty speaking and moving, and Milashina periodically lost consciousness. They were expected to be transferred to a Moscow hospital late Tuesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that President Vladimir Putin was informed of a “very serious” attack, which required “energetic measures” in response. Head of the Russian Investigative Committee Aleksander Bastrykin instructed the body’s Chechen branch to investigate the attack, and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov ordered authorities to find those responsible.

In February 2022, Milashina had to flee Russia after receiving threats from Kadyrov. Milashina was previously attacked during a 2020 reporting trip in Grozny and beaten in Moscow in 2012.

Since Novaya Gazeta was founded in 1993, at least five of its journalists and contributors have been murdered in connection to their work