Leading Russian opposition journalist Elena Milashina was mercilessly beaten outside of her Moscow home just after midnight on April 4th. According to reports, Milashina was returning home to her apartment with another friend when three attackers assailed her and beat her, apparently knocking out some of her teeth. They also stole her money and her friend’s laptop, only to be scared away by some passersby. Police were notified of the attack and have claimed they will address the case.
Milashina writes for opposition publication Novaya Gazeta, perhaps most memorable for its outspoken editor, Anna Politkovskaya, who was brutally murdered in 2006 inside of her Moscow apartment, after many years of work on brutalities in the Caucasus. She was found dead with a pistol dropped at her side after producing years of investigative and critical writing regarding government corruption.
Politkovskaya’s murder launched worldwide coverage of corruption of the justice system and the persecution of investigative journalists in Russia. Three of the men that were originally suspected of killing Politkovskaya were acquitted in 2009. That year, Novaya Gazeta journalist Natalya Estemirova was also kidnapped and killed in Chechnya.
Like Politkovskaya, Milashina has reported on disappearances throughout Russia, including incidents in the North Caucasus. According to The Moscow Times, Milashina was also attacked in 2006 in Breslan.
Although Novaya Gazeta’s deputy editor claimed that Milashina’s most recent attackers were probably not connected to any professional or planned attack, the atmosphere in which opposition journalists work in Russia does not offer a comforting tale of safety and support. Five Novaya Gazeta reporters have been murdered between 2000 and 2009, including Politkovskaya and Estemirova.
Speculation about the circumstances of Milashina’s attack should be positioned in relation to the high tension of the election year, in which Putin won back his presidential seat in early March. She is known for speaking out against attacks on fellow journalists throughout Russia and the government’s slow reactions to such crimes. Even three years ago, she was speaking to global audiences about these issues.
Speculation about the suppression of oppositional columns in publications as Kommersant-Vlast ran rampant leading up to Putin’s newest election to the presidential seat. In fact, Oleg Kashin, a reporter for this publication was brutally beaten in late 2010, his hands and face left mangled, he was sent directly to intensive care.
Rumors of threats to publications leading up to the election suggest that there may have been suppression of oppositional print materials in the early part of the year in order to keep the election under control.
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