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Moscow, July 5 – Yelena Milashina, a prominent Russian investigative journalist, was badly beaten up by a group of masked men shortly after her arrival in Chechnya to attend the trial of a human rights activist
Accompanied by lawyer Alexander Nemov, Milashina, a reporter for the independent Moscow tri-weekly Novaya Gazeta, came under attack on Tuesday while they were heading from the Grozny airport to the court to attend the hearing for Zarema Musaeva — the mother of three exiled critics of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
In a recorded video interview with Novaya Gazeta, the reporter said her attackers “knew what they were doing”m and were “in a hurry”, CNN reported.
Milashina said she believes they intended to frighten her and gain access to her and Nemov’s devices.
“They beat us up two times… They were very specific, they knew what they wanted, knew what their limits were, beyond which they could not go.”
“It was a classic kidnapping… They pinned down then threw our driver out of his car, climbed in, bent our heads down, tied my hands, forced me to my knees and put a gun to my head,” the BBC quoted the journalist as saying
“They threw us on the side of the road and started kicking us in the face, all over the body… they stabbed me in the leg,” Nemov told the Russian bar association.
In the video interview Milashina is seen visibly bruised, her head shaved off and painted with a green dye.
“They did this,” she says when asked about her hair. “I don’t have any wounds, thank God, just bruises.”
Although the dye is used as an antiseptic, it has also been used in earlier attacks on dissidents in Russia, including Alexei Navalny.
Meanwhile, Novaya Gazeta said that the perpetrators were unknown, adding that Milashina and Nemov were asked to give a statement to police at the hospital but refused.
The Kremlin called the incident “a very serious attack” that required investigative actions and serious measures to be taken.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed of the attack and the incident is being handled by the country’s human rights ombudsman, reports CNN.
Milashina had received death threats in the past from Kadyrov, who has been the leader of Chechnya since 2007.
He has been widely accused of ordering extrajudicial killings, abductions and torture at home.
Milashina fled Russia for a while in February 2022 after Kadyrov had called her a terrorist, saying “we have always eliminated terrorists and their accomplices”.
She was attacked in 2020 alongside another lawyer, Marina Dubrovina.
Her investigative reporting detailing human rights abuses in Chechnya followed in the footsteps of two women who were murdered for similar work there.
In 2006 Novaya Gazeta colleague Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in Moscow, while her friend and campaigner Natalia Estemirova was abducted and shot in Grozny.