Chechnya Milashina attack: Armed thugs beat up Russian journalist and lawyer
As soon as Yelena Milashina landed in Chechnya, she was attacked by masked men.
A few miles from the airport, she was forced out of a car, hit with plastic pipes, and doused in green dye.
The notorious leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has threatened Milashina with death in the past.
She was traveling with lawyer Alexander Nemov, who was also injured.
They had just arrived at Grozny airport to attend a court verdict for an exiled Kadyrov critic’s mother. However, they were not able to attend Zarema Musayeva’s trial, where she was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail.
Since 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov has been in charge of Chechnya. He has been widely accused of ordering extrajudicial killings, abductions, and torture in his own country as a staunch ally of Vladimir Putin.
An ambush by ten masked men driving three cars a short distance from the airport ambushed the journalist and lawyer’s car. It was later revealed that they believed the men had been waiting inside the airport for them.
A Chechen human rights official told Yelena Milashina that the kidnapping was a classic case of kidnapping. Having pinched our driver down, they forced him out of his car, climbed in, bent our heads down, tied my hands, and forced me to kneel with a gun on my head.”
He told the Russian bar association that the attackers threw him on the side of the road and started kicking him in the face. “They stabbed me in the leg,” he said.
As Ms Milashina explained later, the men dragged them into a ravine and beat them with plastic polypropylene pipes, demanding their mobile phones be unlocked. As she was being beaten, she explained that her password was too complex to enter.
As Sergei Babinets of rights group Crew against Torture told her, they did not understand until they shaved her and poured green dye on her.
Despite its use as an antiseptic, the dye has also been used to attack dissidents in Russia, including Alexei Navalny.
In addition to the brain injury, she was initially diagnosed with three broken fingers, but later doctors said they were still intact.
Crew against Torture posted an image showing the stab wound to Alexander Nemov’s leg. She described the polypropylene pipes they were beaten with as “very painful” and usually used on detainees.
According to the Kremlin, the attack was very serious and needed investigation. Memorial, a human rights group banned by Russia, said there was no doubt that Moscow and Grozny authorities were on the same page.
Having been called a terrorist by Kadyrov in February 2022, Ms Milashina fled Russia for some time. Another lawyer, Marina Dubrovina, was also attacked in 2020.
She followed in the footsteps of two women who were murdered for reporting on human rights abuses in Chechnya. Earlier this year, Anna Politkovskaya, a colleague at Novaya Gazeta, was murdered in Moscow, and Natalia Estemirova, a friend and campaigner, was abducted and shot in Grozny.
In a BBC interview only last week, Milashina acknowledged that Kadyrov and his entourage were capable of fulfilling his death threats.