Russian reporter who broke story on torture of gay men in Chechnya reportedly attacked by a gang in the Chechen capital
A prominent investigative Russian journalist and a human rights lawyer were attacked late Thursday evening by a gang in the lobby of a hotel in the Chechen capital Grozny, according to reports.
Elena Milashina, an award-winning reporter who first broke the story of the kidnapping and torture of gay men in Chechnya in 2017, was accompanied by human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovinato, who’d traveled to Grozny to represent a blogger named Islam Nukhanov. According to Amnesty International, the pair had traveled to Chechnya to attend his trial.
Nukhanov is a disabled blogger who got into legal trouble after posting a video on YouTube showing expensive properties that allegedly belonged to the family of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
After the video was published, Nukhanov was detained and accused of illegal possession of arms, which he denies.
According to Novaya Gazeta, the Moscow-based newspaper that employs Milashina, the pair was attacked by a group of unknown men and women at the entrance of the Continental hotel.
They were returning to the hotel from a cafe across the street when they saw a group of more than 15 people, she told police.
“For the most part, it was the women who beat [Milashina and Dubrovina] with their hands and feet,” the newspaper said, adding that “the assailants filmed their actions on camera.”
Later, a male attacker told the group to stop and leave the hotel.
“It was coordinated, orchestrated,” she told BBC Russian. “These were thugs, provocateurs; female thugs carried out this punitive attack. They were young women, girls, and the men were standing close by and giving them instructions.”
“This brazen attack is appalling. Last year Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov openly warned he would bar human rights defenders from Chechnya and threatened them with violence. Now, such violence is taking place,” Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia deputy director, said in a statement.
Milashina, who gained notoriety after the exposé on Chechen infamous “anti-gay purge,” later posted a photo on Facebook showing bruises on her face.
“This [attack] is, of course, a stubborn command by the Chechen authorities. I believe they are certainly behind this attack,” Milashina told the Ekho Moskvy radio station, according to The Moscow Times.
“This is the latest in a string of vicious attacks on vocal critics in Chechnya and is the direct outcome of such threats coupled with the complete impunity for the perpetrators of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture of Kadyrov’s critics," added Krivosheev.
Harlem Désir, the representative on freedom of the media of the OSCE, an intergovernmental media watchdog group, “strongly condemned” the attack.
“This is a very worrying incident,” Désir said in a statement Friday. “I urge the authorities to investigate this attack thoroughly and fully, in order to bring those responsible to justice. It is paramount that journalists are able to work in a safe environment, without fear of reprisals.”