The Chechen Union of Journalists has issued an official statement condemning Novaya Gazeta’s reporting of a mass execution of detainees in Chechnya. They claim that the author of the article, Yelena Milashina, ‘suffers from maniacal obsession and a pathological predilection for revealing imaginary crimes’.
The Union of Journalists released their statement after a number of Chechen officials, including Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the mass execution of 27 detainees in January. The organisation wrote on 11 July that ‘Ms Milashina’s article, which aimed for sensationalist loudness and exposure, looks more like a political order from its Western sponsors rather than a journalistic investigation. The order is frankly poorly carried out, and juggles with empty speculation and groundless guesswork’.
The Union of Journalists called on the newspaper to provide concrete and confirmed facts, evidence, and testimonies of the reported crime.
‘Only then accuse someone, based on a reliable evidence base, without referring to hearsay’, the statement reads.
Milashina responded to the accusation in a conversation with Moscow-based radio Ekho Moskvy, where she said that Chechen journalists should have fact-checked her reporting rather than criticise Novaya Gazeta and its journalists.
‘They should rather talk with the parents [of the murdered men] and find out whether the people which we report about are alive and where they are’, the journalist said.
According to the 9 July article published in Novaya Gazeta, in late January, Chechen security forces shot dead 27 young people who were possibly suspected of having links with radical Islamist groups operating in Syria. As a proof, the newspaper published the names, patronymics, and places of residence of the slain men.
Caucasian Knot reported on 11 July that several inhabitants of Chechnya had confirmed the deaths of their relatives who had been detained.
‘Eleven men were taken away in January in the zachistkas [‘mopping-up’ operations] in Tsotsi-Yurt. In addition to Makhma Muskiyev, there were other relatives of Isa Muskiyev there. After some time, the security forces informed this family that Makhma was dead, while the other men would be tried by law. There was no information about where the detainees are located, what exactly they are accused of, what happened to them, which we didn’t know until recently anyway. Now the article appeared in Novaya Gazeta saying that they were all killed. We have no reason not to believe this’, Suleyman, an inhabitant of Kurchaloy, told Caucasian Knot.
Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner, has announced that she has passed details of the alleged mass execution to Russian President Vladimir Putin. She told media that she would be ready to meet with Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov after an investigation by Russia’s Investigative Committee takes place.