Russia Update: Novaya Gazeta Reporter Milashina Targeted With Death Threat by Chechen Media

June 10, 2015
Yelena Milashina. Photo by

A death treat was made by the deputy editor of an official Chechen government publication against Yelena Milashina, special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta who has covered a number of controversies in Chechnya, including the razing of the homes of terrorists’ relatives and forced marriage.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.


Russia This Week:

Is ‘Novorossiya’ Really Dead?
From Medal of Valor to Ubiquitous Propaganda Symbol: the History of the St. George Ribbon
What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow

Special features:

With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo

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More Evidence Debunking Russian Claims On MH17

'There Was No Buk in Our Field'

Russian state media has given saturation coverage to the report by engineers from the Russian defense corporation Almaz-Antey which claims that while a Buk-M1 was used to shoot down MH17, it was launched not from the area near Torez but further south in Zaroshchenskoye, ostensibly under Ukrainian control at the time.

View full page >

Jun 11, 2015 02:53 (GMT)

Putin, Sechin Meet with Italian Prime Minister to Discuss Oil Deals; Pope Also Receives Putin

President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met today in Milan, and Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft and one of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs, took part in the talks as well, the company said in a press release on its website.

Rosneft “actively cooperates” with Italian companies, says the corporate press release, notably the Italian oil major ENI in projects in the Black and Barent Seas. In 2013, Rosneft acquired 20.99% shares in Saras, an Italian oil refinery and signed an MOU with Enel for hydrocarbons exploration. Rosneft also does business with Italian marketing and sales companies including Pirello, Autogrill 7 A-Cafe.

The EU imposed sanctions against Rosneft, but not Igor Sechin personally; Rosneft has challenged these in a UK court. The judge then referred the case to the EU court as it could not address all the issues.

Putin criticized the EU sanctions during his meeting, where he had a ready audience; as the New York Times commented:

Mr. Putin has always found a comfort zone in Italy, which has important trade and energy ties to Russia.

Not even two days had passed before the G7 supposedly showed a united front in maintaining sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, but the unity was breaking down. That’s because Italy has never been enthusiastic about the sanctions. In March, Italy’s foreign minister urged an end to the sanctions over Ukraine, saying the crisis in Libya was worse; this and other statements from Italy have been a constant theme of Russian propaganda.

The Moscow Times said that Putin’s visit to Italy was an outright attempt to exploit divisions in the EU to bring about an end to the sanctions.

Earlier, Putin met with Pope Francis, arriving an hour late as he has done in the past with papal meetings.

In his press conference in Italy, Putin blamed Ukraine for violating the Minsk ceasefire agreement.

The US ambassador to the Vatican hoped that the Pope would raise the war in Ukraine with Putin; there was also an expectation they would discuss the war in Syria.

“Perhaps the Holy Father can raise this concern privately,” said Kenneth
Hackett, the United States ambassador to the Holy See. “It does seem
that Russia is supporting the insurgents, and that there are Russian
troops inside the Ukraine. This is a very serious situation.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

NTV Television Reporter Let Go For Criticizing Putin

A reporter for the pro-Kremlin NTV television network, which is owned by the state energy giant Gazprom, has been fired for calling Putin “cynical” and making other critical remarks about the Russian President. RFE/RL reports:

Konstantin Goldentsvaig, a Berlin-based reporter for NTV, said on his Facebook page that he had become fed up working for the network, which he accused of disseminating “propaganda,” and informed his bosses in March that he planned to quit.

But he said NTV released him early from his contract this week after his June 8 interview with a German public television station during the Group of Seven (G7) summit in southern Germany.

In the interview, Goldentsvaig said he believes Putin feels “insulted” that Russia was expelled from the group last year for its intervention in Ukraine.

The journalist also said Putin “has a great interest in having the situation [in Ukraine] remain unstable as long as possible, because Moscow profits from this.”

The former NTV reporter, who in fact spells his last name “Goldenzweig,” had a statement about his departure on his Facebook page which received 2,459 likes.

James Miller

Criminal Case Opened Against Ponomarev, Only Russian MP To Vote Against Crimea Annexation

The Investigative Committee (IC) has now publicly announced the opening of a criminal case against State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev, Novaya Gazeta reported.

While this was rumored before as we reported, it was not officially announced today.  On June 8, Just Russia faction leader Sergei Mironov announced that he would seek removal of Ponomarev from the parliament.

IC spokesman Sergei Markin said that Ponomarev was charged under Art. 160, part 4, paras. 5 and 33 (“aiding in embezzlement”) for accepting “too high” lecture fees at the Skolkovo Foundation from Aleksey Beltyukov, the former director, who is also charged. The IC claims that Ponomarev did not fulfill all the lectures and reports he was supposed to have done under a $750,000 contract. Ponomarev denies the charges, saying they are politically motivated (see our coverage of his case).

Ponomarev was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in April, paving the way for the criminal charges.

He is the only deputy who voted against the annexation of the Crimea. Recently he announced that he would remain in the US.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Novaya Gazeta Reporter Milashina Targeted by Death Threat from Official Chechen Media

Yelena Milashina, a correspondent for Novaya Gazeta who has long covered controversies in Chechnya and who was forced to leave Chechnya last month has now suffered a direct death threat in an official publication of the Chechen government.

Translation: Yelena Milashina, journalist of Novaya Gazeta, is threatened by murder.

In December 2014, when Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov ordered police to raze the homes
of the relatives of terrorists, Milashina went to interview the homeless victims and took pictures of their burnt houses.. Later she urged investigators to take action on the unlawful reprisals.


Razed home in Gudermes

She also covered the “child bride” controversy recently when a
57-year-old Chechen village police chief married a 17-year-old girl. Efforts to
track down reports from the bride’s girlfriends, who said she was
coerced into the marriage, ended in threats forcing her to leave

This story, one of a dozen attracted 429,590 views.


Milashina was also the author of an important piece in 2013 called “Bastrykin’s Humiliation” exposing the inability of federal Russian law-enforcement to cope with the abusive Chechen police, who were alleged responsible for kidnappings and murders.

The threat against Milashina came in a twisted but unmistakeable way — from the editor of an official Chechen news agency in a propaganda hit piece with an insinuation about “sacrificial victims” — the term Russian propagandists uses for figures like opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was murdered in February, in their claims that either the opposition itself or their ostensible Western backers deliberately kill people in false-flag operations to “destabilize” society.

Grozny-Inform, the most widely-disseminated media outlet in Chechnya (not counting Kadyrov’s own Instagram account) ran an article by Mavsar Varayev, a long, Soviet-style denunciation ranting about the West and the Russian opposition. Varayev first accused Milashina merely of attention-seeking by writing about the forced  marriage and attempting to get into the wedding. Then his article takes a sinister turn and he made a number of allusions to Milashina’s supposedly inevitable murder which appear to be a clear threat.

The publication was founded by the Chechen Ministry for National Policy, External Liaisons, Press and Information said to be controlled personally by Alvi Karimov, Kadyrov’s press secretary. Varayev is the deputy editor of the news agency and essentially the editor-in-chief. His recent articles include an attack on the critical film The Family, released by Open Russia, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, about Kadryov and pieces titles “Enough Feeding of Navalny” and “Am I Charlie? No, I’m not Charlie”.

The Interpreter has translated the relevant excerpts:

Let us recall. There was Anna Politkovskaya — she carried on about human rights, constantly slinging mud on her homeland and received all kinds of awards from Americans and Europeans and was constantly concerned about observing the rights of  LGBT rejects. As a result, at the right moment she was murdered and a wild scream went up in all the liberal media about the police state. If you dig into Milashina’s biography, approximately the same will happen to her as to Politkovskaya. They will use the same methods, and it is quite likely that the next sacred victim will actually be Yelena Milashina, only the perpetrators this time will definitely not be Caucasians. Most likely they will find someone from the fascistic organizations who will fulfill this order. For some reason, they haven’t been making themselves known lately. Although in the cause of the real defense of human rights, Milashina cannot hold a candle to Politkovskaya, the “Novaya special correspondent” is constantly making up stuff. With all my contempt for the “journalistic” and “human rights” activity of Milashina in this context, one virtue she has is the ability to weave the necessary rhythm and “become famous” throughout the whole country.

The author then describes the murder of Nemtsov as “a sacrifice for Western interests” that didn’t play the role in “starting World War III” it was supposed to, and describes the opposition either going abroad or being put in jail; only Nemtsov walked around freely and was “brought as a sacrifice.”  Says Varayev:

Tactically, this was not difficult to do, but the murder clearly did not fulfill its strategic assignment. And here Milashina pops up in the foreground.

The author laments how Chechens are blamed for everything from the Boston marathon bombing to fighting in Ukraine; Kadyrov even offered, at the request of Nemtsov’s children, to be questioned, but then asked “about what”?  He then returns to focus on Milashina:

Only it seemed as if Milashina, in unison with Khodorkovsky began to work up the theme of the medieval customs in the Chechen Republic, that a bride and groom registered at ZAGS [the state marriage bureau] and put stamps in their passports.

And among all this noise we see the accompanying preparation of a victim. Plants in the media about how Milashina was advised to watch her security, an appeal to the Investigative Committee about the infringement of the rights of a journalist — these are not the last “terrible things” that will happen to her. Milashina has been prepared for a long time, and with good reason. The beating of Novaya Gazeta journalist in Balashikha is also one of the necessary episodes. And on the whole, roughly speaking, if you go through all the potential victims, then by all signs, the latest hero who will pay for their life for “the defense of human rights” in Russia will be our Novaya Gazeta special correspondent. It was not at all an accident that Secretary of State John Kerry gave Milashina the International Women of Courage award for her journalistic investigation.

Let’s hope that it is not posthumous…

Milashina received the award in 2013. It is an annual event marking the achievements of a number of women around the world.


Novaya Gazeta‘s editors said they were publishing the piece in full to call attention to the threats in it, and called on the prosecutor’s office to investigate it and to ensure Milashina’s safety.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick