MOSCOW (southafricnews) – A group of more than 15 people assaulted a prominent Russian investigative journalist and a lawyer in Chechnya late on Thursday, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported on Friday.

Yelena Milashina, a special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, and lawyer Marina Dubrovina were attacked by a group of men and women at their hotel in the city of Grozny, it said.

Milashina had been in Chechnya to cover a court case. When she and Dubrovina returned to their hotel before midnight on Thursday, a large number of people had gathered in the lobby and began to punch and kick them.

“The whole group began to beat Maria Dubrovina and me,” Milashina said in her statement to police, which she posted on Facebook. “They grabbed my neck and head… they hit my head on the marble floor with great force, from which I still have contusions and hematomas.”

Novaya Gazeta ran a banner on its website on Friday calling on Ramzan Kadyrov, the region’s Kremlin-backed leader, to apologise for the attack.

In 2017, Milashina, who has received numerous threats from Chechen authorities in the past, alleged the existence of the mass arrest and torture of gay men in the region.

Human rights workers have accused Kadyrov of widespread abuses in the region, allegations he denies.

His supporters credit him with bringing relative calm and stability to a region dogged for years by a simmering insurgency following two wars between Moscow and separatists after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist who covered Chechnya for Novaya Gazeta before Milashina, was shot dead in 2006 as she returned to her Moscow apartment.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by William Maclean

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