IPI and its global network denounce in the firmest possible terms the violent attack on Elena Milashina, an investigative journalist with the renowned Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who was assaulted along with lawyer Alexander Nemov as they were heading to monitor the trial of political prisoner Zarema Musayeva in Chechnya.

According to Milashina, she and Nemov flew from Moscow to Vladikavkaz, the capital of the neighboring Russian region of Northern Ossetia. Early in the morning, they hired a taxi to take them to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, where the journalist and human rights lawyer were set to report from and monitor a hearing in the case of Musayeva. As Milashina and Nemov entered Chechnya, they were ambushed by armed individuals, who beat both of them, breaking Milashina’s fingers and injuring her head. Nemov was wounded to his leg, likely with a knife, and needed to be placed on a wheelchair as a result of the attack.

Milashina suffered a “quite serious concussion” to her head and is “constantly fainting”, according to Natalia Kurekina, the spokesperson of the Crew Against Torture, the organization represented by human rights lawyer Alexander Nemov.

Kurekina described the details of the attack to Russian independent media outlet Verstka: “[As] they entered the territory of Chechnya [from Northern Ossetia], their car was blocked by three other cars, from which people in masks came out, with guns. They dragged them out of the car and beat them very heavily, kicking their faces. They held them at gunpoint and threatened to shoot [them]. They said: ‘don’t write anything and don’t come here. We warned you’.”

“IPI vehemently condemns this horrific attack on journalist Elena Milashina and Alexander Nemov. This brutal assault demonstrates once again the Kadyrov regime’s utter disregard for human rights in Chechnya as well as the wider atmosphere of repression in Russia”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “The IPI global network stands in solidarity with Novaya Gazeta and Elena Milashina, who has shown remarkable courage and resilience in continuing to report on human rights abuses in Chechnya despite the grave risks she faces. Russian federal authorities must investigate this outrageous act of violence and hold those responsible to account. And the international community must continue to speak out forcefully against the repression and retaliation that journalists across Russia face for doing their job.”

Due to their injuries, neither Milashina nor Nemov was able to attend the court hearing in the case of Musayeva, during which the latter was sentenced to five-and-a-half years of internment in a penal colony. The wife of Said Yangulbayev, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Chechnya, Musayeva stood accused of financial fraud and of using violence against a police officer. Her husband and other family members have also previously been harassed by Chechen authorities led by Ramzan Kadyrov, in what international human rights organizations say are reprisals for their criticism of the human rights situation in Chechnya.

As Russia descended into full repression of all independent media since the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the situation in Chechnya mirrors this repression with even more violence. Known for their recurring attacks against journalists and human rights defenders since the 1990s, Chechen authorities have eliminated all possibilities for the open functioning of independent media and non-governmental organizations in the region, a process completed with the forced closure of the Grozny office of Memorial, a renowned Russian human rights group later disbanded by authorities at the national level, following the imprisonment of the office’s president, Oyub Titiev, in January 2018.