Chechen official rejects ‘Novaya Gazeta’ report on 2017 executions
In an Instagram post published on Wednesday, March 17, Chechnya’s Information and Press Minister, Akhmed Dudayev, made harsh criticisms of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta for publishing a report by journalist Elena Milashina, titled “I Served in the Chechen Police and Didn’t Want to Kill People.”
Elena Milashina’s report features revelations from Suleiman Gezmakhmaev, a former officer in Chechnya’s Akhmat Kadyrov Police Patrol Service Regiment. Gezmakhmaev recounts his involvement in arresting and interrogating people who were subsequently executed en masse in 2017 (he denies any involvement in torturing and killing these locals). You can read Meduza’s English-language summary of the report here.
Dudayev, who is also a top aide to Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, rejected Novaya Gazeta’s reporting as false and accused the publication of libeling Chechen law enforcement.
“Under the guise of a ‘truthful revelation’ this fake publication once again has concocted vile slander, making up fictional innocent victims, protecting fugitive degenerate criminals, [and] spreading knowingly false information that defames the honor and dignity of heroic law enforcement officers.”
Dudayev said that Novaya Gazeta’s reporting caused “a wave of outrage and justifiable popular anger” among all segments of Chechnya’s population. In his words, locals are demanding that the leadership of both Russia and Chechnya take legal steps “to stop this publication’s openly hostile activities in relation to the Chechen people.”
Update. Later in the day on Wednesday, a rally took place in Grozny where demonstrators protested against Milashina’s article and demanded the closure of Novaya Gazeta. In a video shared by Grozny TV on Instagram, the demonstrators appeal to “Vladimir Vladimirovich” (in other words, Putin), urging him to “shut down Novaya Gazeta and similar media outlets.”
We urge our colleagues from all regions of Russia not to consider the employees of this publication journalists, [they are] hypocritically engaged in writing heinous falsehoods directed against our country, against you and me!
On March 15, the same day Novaya Gazeta published its report on the executions in Chechnya, journalists at the newspaper’s office complained about a pungent, chemical smell near the building’s entrance. Later that evening, a video from a nearby surveillance camera appeared on Telegram, which showed a person in a Yandex courier uniform walking a bicycle up to the building and then spraying gas from its back wheel. Moscow police are looking into the incident. On Wednesday, Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the Kremlin is also aware of the incident and hopes it will be investigated.
In February 2020, journalist Elena Milashina reported receiving repeated threats from Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. This took place after Milashina and lawyer Marina Dubrovina were attacked in the regional capital, Grozny.
In April 2020, Kadyrov criticized an article Milashina wrote for Novaya Gazeta about the coronavirus outbreak in Chechnya. He urged the FSB and the Russian presidential administration to exert influence over the newspaper. He also made the following statement, which Novaya Gazeta considered a threat: “If you want us to commit a crime and become criminals then say so! [Someone] will take this burden of responsibility upon himself and will be punished in accordance with the law.” Nevertheless, the Prosecutor General’s Office succeeded in getting Russia’s federal censor to block Milashina’s article.