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Bus carrying Russian journalists, activists set ablaze in Chechnya; Putin calls for probe

Vishal Manve | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:53 IST
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  • Activists from Russia\'s prominent rights group, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, were allegedly beaten up by masked men as they attempted to bring a group of journalists into Chechnya on Thursday.
  • Russian President Vladmir Putin has ordered the Interior Ministry to clarify all the circumstances behind the attack and \"issue a legal appraisal\" of this incident, Russia Today reported.

Activists from Russia's prominent rights group, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, were allegedly beaten up by masked men as they attempted to bring a group of journalists into Chechnya on Thursday. A number of the journalists were assaulted and their bus was set on fire - in the latest incident of violence and intimidation against those probing abuse of rights in the Chechnya region.

Two human rights activists and six journalists, including one from Sweden and one from Norway, were travelling in the minibus when it was attacked. All the passengers were injured and five were hospitalised, according to reports.

"The ambush was carried out by about 20 men who beat the activists and journalists with sticks and set their vehicles on fire," The Intercept quoted Dmitriy Piskunov, a lawyer in the group's Moscow office, as saying.

Piskunov told The Intercept:

"The incident took place at the start of a press tour organised by the committee to give Russian and foreign journalists an unvarnished look at conditions in Chechnya, the Muslim-majority region ruled with notable brutality by Ramzan Kadyrov, an image-conscious leader appointed by the Kremlin".

One of the journalists, Egor Skovoroda of the Russian news agency Mediazona said the attackers yelled, "You're supporting terrorists, the killers of our fathers."

Skovoroda also shared an image of the conflagration on Twitter and reported that a car with Chechen license plates started following the activists before the attack.

A Norwegian newspaper, Ny Tid, shared pictures of its correspondent Oystein Windstad, who is being treated for injuries to his face, arm, and leg at a hospital in Ingushetia, the Russian republic that borders Chechnya.

Moscow correspondent of Swedish state radio, Maria Persson Lafgren, reported that she was slightly injured in the ambush.

The attackers also broke the nose of the rights group's press secretary, Ivan Zhiltsov, and set the committee's other car on fire.

In another incident on the same day, masked men carrying rifles were recorded by surveillance cameras forcing their way into the group's office in Ingushetia, Russia.

Russian President Vladmir Putin has ordered the Interior Ministry to clarify all the circumstances behind the attack and "issue a legal appraisal" of this incident, Russia Today reported.

According to Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov, senior Russian authorities considered the threat to the lives of journalists and rights advocates "absolutely unacceptable" and expected the law enforcers to find and detain all attackers in order to ensure the safety of human rights activists and representatives of mass media.

First published: 11 March 2016, 11:15 IST
 
Vishal Manve @VishalManve12

Vishal Manve handles business and international relations beat for Catch. Previously, he has worked with Scroll.in and Daily News and Analysis and has interned with BBC World News and Gateway House council on global relations. Currently, he is pursuing Law from Government Law College, Mumbai. In his free time, Vishal researches on various aspects of foreign policy, human rights and feminism and looks for people who will share their stories with him.

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