Russian Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin has ordered the head of the Chechen Investigative Committee, Vitaly Volkov, to check and report on the attack on Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina and lawyer Alexander Nemov, according to a press release put out by the government agency.
Earlier, MP Alexander Khinstein had promised that the State Duma Committee on Information Policy would send an appeal to Russia's Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor General's Office, demanding that they take the investigation under “special control.” Russian human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova also sent appeals to the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and the Chechen Prosecutor's Office.
Milashina and Nemov, who were assaulted in Chechnya, were taken by ambulance to Beslan in North Ossetia. According to a report by Novaya Gazeta, both individuals will receive the necessary care and undergo a medical examination there.
The Crew Against Torture told the BBC that a special plane from Moscow and a team of doctors will arrive tonight to pick up the victims. Milashina and Nemov are scheduled to be taken to Moscow and hospitalized at the Botkin Hospital — the largest state treatment and rehabilitation institution in Moscow.
“The situation is very bad. The lawyer and journalist turned out to be in a rather serious condition. The journalist Milashina is in a more serious condition, according to doctors,” said Tamerlan Tsogoev, human rights ombudsman in North Ossetia. According to Tsogoev, the victims are currently giving evidence to the police. Earlier, reports confirmed that Milashina and Nemov refused to speak with the Chechen law enforcement.
Telegram channel Baza reported that Milashina collapsed at the Beslan hospital, having lost consciousness.
Telegram channel “Ostorozhno, Novosti” published a video from the hospital in Grozny in which Milashina tells Chechen human rights ombudsman Mansur Soltaev about the attack:
“It was a textbook kidnapping, the way it used to be. There has simply not been anything like this for a long time. They pinned me down, threw the chauffeur, the cab driver, out of his car, climbed on top of us, bent our heads down, tied my hands and knelt me down, put a gun to my head. They were pretty nervous, they couldn’t tie my hands.”
According to Sergei Babinets, the head of the Crew Against Torture, he received a message about the attack on Milashina and Nemov at around 5 a.m. He immediately went to the ambulance station where they were located.
“Alexander Nemov met me there, sitting in a wheelchair. He was very badly beaten, he had an extensive hematoma on his head, his face was all abrasions, his hands too, and there was a big bandage on his right shin, soaked with blood.
He told me about the attack. He said that they had arrived in Grozny early in the morning, taken a cab, and driven into the city. On the way they were blocked by three cars, and men in black clothes and balaclavas jumped out. They threw the cab driver out of the car, got behind the wheel, and drove them not very far, to the side of the road. There they dragged them out. The bags were gutted. Elena and Alexander were severely beaten, I understand they were beaten with hands, feet, and polypropylene pipes. [The assailants] demanded that they unlock their electronic gadgets and laptops. Elena and Alexander refused. Elena Milashina had her fingers broken for that. [...]
She [Milashina] was lying in the corridor on a gurney. She was faint, breathing heavily, her face was covered in green [dye], her hair was cut, her clothes were filthy, and she was covered with bruises. The doctors administered first aid and gave her painkillers.”
Babinets said that the victims were taken to Beslan at the request of Novaya Gazeta, as the town had the “largest professional hospital near Grozny,” and also because it was not safe for Milashina and Nemov to stay in Chechnya. Babinets is sure that the attack is connected with both victims’ line of work.
Crew Against Torture lawyer Alexander Savin met Zarema Musayeva, who was previously defended by Nemov in court, at the pre-trial detention center in Grozny where she was being held. She handed over a letter for Nemov and Milashina that read:
“Sashenka, please recover quickly. I wish you good luck, success, health from the bottom of my heart. Thank you very much for everything, all the best to everyone. Elena, get well. Hold on, my dear.”
Milashina and Nemov flew to Chechnya for the sentencing of Zarema Musayeva, the mother of Chechen human rights defenders Abubakar and Ibrahim Yangulbayev. Musayeva has been imprisoned in Grozny's pre-trial detention center for more than a year.
Her case began in January 2022, when Chechen law enforcers broke into the Musayev family apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, some 1,800 kilometers from Chechnya. The woman was taken to Chechnya and accused of “using violence against a police officer” and fraud. On July 4, a court sentenced her to 5.5 years in a penal colony.
Musayeva’s husband, retired judge Saidi Yangulbayev, and their sons, human rights activists Abubakar and Ibrahim, regularly criticized the Ramzan Kadyrov regime.
Abubakar Yangulbayev has accused Kadyrov's law enforcement and security officers of “lawlessness on a daily basis” and said the case against his mother is Kadyrov's personal retaliation for his activities.
Kadyrov and multiple other Chechen officials, including a member of the Russian State Duma, have publicly vowed to kill all members of the Yangulbayev family, calling them “terrorists.”