Journalist who exposed the terrors of the Chechen gay purge brutally attacked by ‘mobsters’

Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina, who helped expose the gay purge that pelted Chechnya, was attacked. (Screen capture via The Moscow Times/Facebook)

A journalist who worked to expose the terrors of the gay purge in Chechnya has spoken out after being brutally beaten up 15 “mobsters”.

Scores of queer men who suffered weeks of torture and brutal beatings in a targeted attack by the pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, in a horrifying turn in the republic’s long history of human rights abuses.

Local authorities denied the crackdowns ever happened, but journalist Elena Milashina and human rights lawyer Marina Dubrovina hurled countless cases of kidnapped gay men into the public eye.

But the pair were allegedly attacked as they returned to their hotel Thursday evening in Gronzy by a group of 15 men and women according to the opposition paper Milashina writes for, Novaya Gazeta.

What happened?

Milashina and Dubrovina were returning from a café across the road from the hotel, they said.

The gang reportedly lurked inside the lobby and waited for the pair before jumping them.

Milashina said that the women attacked first while she and Dubrovina waited for a lift.

After a while, the men then launched their attack. At least one man allegedly filmed the attack.

“They surrounded us by the lift and started to push back,” the journalist wrote on Facebook, the paper reported.

“They grabbed us by the neck and head and smashed our heads against the marble floor, punched me in the stomach and pulled at my hair.”

Milashina believes that the incident relates to her work in the field, and the group knew of their whereabouts from a previous social media post.

“Of course this is an organised attack, it’s the latest in a chain of attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers working in Chechnya,” she told Ekho Moskvy radio Friday.

Both Milashina and Dubrovina were treated by medics. She later posted a photo on Facebook showing a bruise on her head and captioned it: “My poor ahead.”

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović on Friday condemned the assault as “the latest of a series of worrying attacks on human rights defenders and critics” in Chechnya, the Associated Press reported.

What is the gay purge in Chechnya?

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechnya, a republic nestled in the mountains of Russia’s southern border, has wrestled with violence.

Being gay is taboo in Chechnya, a primarily Muslim nation, which pushed the lives of many queer folk into private online chat rooms and darkened alleyways.

But one day, this all changed.


Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Chechen Republic, where allegations of anti-gay purges have been rife since 2017. (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

Milashina first reported the pogrom in 2017, alleging that 100 gay men had been arrested and three killed in a sweep widely condemned by activists and lawmakers across the world.

Russian LGBT+ activists set up underground tunnels and trails in attempts to ferry the men out of the region or else be captured in the relentless campaigns during the Spring and Summer.

Witnesses have painted a brutal playbook of Chechen regional authorities bundling gay men into cars, thrown into basements of police stations or thrown into facilities where they were tormented and starved.

Amin Dzhabrailov was beaten and tortured with electric shocks as part of Chechnya’s ‘anti-gay purge’ (CBC News)

One man who escaped the torturous roundups explained how “guys with guns” burst into a salon where he was getting his hair done one day.

They handcuffed him before driving him to a torture facility, where he was held for two weeks with around 17 other queer men.

Days rolled by as the men were abused, electrocuted and psychologically rattled.

“It’s like [being] on the edge of dying, especially when they’re using that machine which is making electricity,” the victim said.

“I was screaming to stop this.”