Elena Milashina, an investigative journalist working for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has left Chechnya due to concerns for her own safety.
While reporting in Chechnya on the forced marriage of an underage girl (17) to a local police chief (57), Milashina found that she was being watched. According to the journalist, she realized her car was being followed as she drove from a Chechen village called Baitarki to the city of Khasavyurt in Dagestan on Wednesday, May 13.
Milashina also said that as she departed for the village of Badaiki, police officers from the Siberian federal district warned her that the Chechen police was paying close attention to her activities, and advised her to “watch out for [her] personal safety carefully.”
A statement on the official website of the Chechen Interior Ministry says that Milashina will be sued for slander if she does not name the police officer who told her to watch out for her personal safety.
Elena Milashina was in Chechnya on assignment from the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. She was gathering materials on the planned marriage of local police chief Nadzhid Guchigov (57 years old) to the 17-year-old Kheda Goilabiyeva.
Information about the planned marriage has drawn a lot of attention from the public due to Goilabiyeva’s age and due to the fact that Nadzhid Guchigov is already married and not currently divorced.
According to Milashina, Kheda Goilabiyeva and her family were against the marriage, but police chief Guchigov threatened to take her away by force and set up posts around the village to prevent Goilabiyeva from escaping.
When speaking with Milashina, Guchigov denied the allegations and said that he has “never head of Goilabiyeva before,” but also stated that he is aware of the fact that she is 17 years old.
Head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov has responded to Milashina’s reporting and said that he personally checked the facts and found no evidence of conflict between the groom and the bride’s family.
Bride kidnapping was banned in 2010 in Chechnya.
Milashina reported that the wedding has now been called off.