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‘Now we’re going to kill you’ Journalist Elena Milashina and lawyer Alexander Nemov recount being attacked in Chechnya
We flew into Grozny, got in a taxi, and drove about 500 meters [546 yards]. We passed the Sever military base and three cars carrying at least 10–15 people overtook us. They threw the taxi driver out of the car and threw us facedown. They tried to tie my hands behind my back and Sasha [Alexander Nemov] was stabbed — he was bleeding.
We drove a bit further and then stopped. They dragged us into a ravine and started beating us. They understood their capabilities and limits very well, they knew what they were doing. They were in a hurry and harshly demanded the passwords for our devices. Sasha was brutally beaten, they told him directly: “Defend people at home, there’s no need to defend people here.” They shaved [my head]. They threatened to cut off my fingers and tried to break them, but they didn’t break. I have a concussion but no fractures.
Then they left: they told us to count to a hundred, facedown on the ground. Sasha and I lay down, counted, and then got up. They ran back over, hit us hard, and then told us to count to a hundred again. And that was it. They didn’t steal anything, they were only interested in our devices. This [attack] was connected with our work in Chechnya.
Our taxi had driven about 200 meters [218 yards] from the airport when another car pushed against ours. Ten to 12 people in masks got out of three cars, threw our driver out of the taxi, and then drove us another 150 meters [164 yards]. They stopped, dragged us from the car, threw us down on the side of the road, and started kicking us and beating us with rods — hitting our faces and all over our bodies. They stabbed me in the leg.
They said, “There’s no reason for you to come here, do your work at home, no one needs defending here.” They said that, allegedly, they had given me a warning — when they put me under surveillance. “That was a warning, and now we’re going to kill you.” They put me on my knees and put a gun to the back of my head. They demanded that I beg them for mercy. Then they took all of my devices, my phone and laptop, and told me to count to a hundred, while continuing to beat me.
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