US condemns brutal attack on Russian journalist, lawyer in Chechnya

Yelena Milashina sits after receiving health care at a hospital in Moscow, July 5, 2023.  Novaya Gazeta
Yelena Milashina sits after receiving health care at a hospital in Moscow, July 5, 2023. Novaya Gazeta

The US State Department has strongly condemned the brutal attack on a prominent Russian journalist and a lawyer during a visit to Chechnya.

Novaya Gazeta award-winning investigative journalist Yelena Milashina and lawyer Alexander Nemov were brutally attacked by armed men, resulting in serious injuries. The US government has called for a transparent investigation into the incident and stressed the need for justice.

The attack occurred as Milashina and Nemov were on their way to attend the sentencing of Chechen opposition activist Zarema Musayeva. The attack prevented them from completing their mission, raising concerns about the safety of journalists and the erosion of press freedom in Russia.

Speaking about the incident, Milshina described the horrific incident: “It was a classic kidnapping… They knocked our driver down, threw him out of his car, barged in, our heads down, my hands Tied up, made me sit there on my knees, and put a gun to my head.”

This chilling tale underscores the grave danger they face and the need for swift action.

The State Department statement highlights a pattern of violence against investigative journalists in Russia, which has often gone unchecked by authorities. The US government criticized Russia for violating its international human rights obligations and urged a thorough and transparent investigation into the attack.

Concerns have been raised in the past about the situation in Chechnya and the safety of individuals critical of the government. Chechen officials, including Ramzan Kadyrov, who heads the region and is an ally of President Vladimir Putin, have openly threatened members of the Yangulbayev family, labeling them “terrorists”. The hostile environment in the region amplifies the risks faced by journalists like Milashina, who have exposed human rights abuses and political persecution.

The attack on Milashina and Nemov has attracted international attention and calls for justice. It is a stark reminder of the dangers journalists face in their pursuit of the truth and the need to protect press freedom. The Russian Investigative Committee has opened criminal cases in response to the incident, but concerns remain about the country’s commitment to the overall safety of journalists and upholding human rights.

The attack on these individuals underscores the importance of ensuring that those responsible are held accountable. It also highlights the need to create an environment where journalists can do their important work without fear of violence or retribution.

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