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Russia 'forced marriage' reporter Milashina flees Chechnya

Elena Milashina was recognised for her bravery by First Lady Michelle Obama and John Kerry in the US in 2013 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Elena Milashina was recognised for her bravery by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2013

A journalist has left the southern Russian republic of Chechnya amid fears for her safety, after writing that a teenage girl was being forced to marry a police commander much older than her.

Elena Milashina had written that the local police head, Nazhud Guchigov, had threatened reprisals against the girl's family if she was not handed over.

The police commander was also said to be married to another woman.

Ms Milashina's newspaper said she fled after her safety was threatened.

A prominent investigative journalist with independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, she reported in late April that villagers had approached her when the 46-year-old police commander in Nozhay-Yurt prevented Kheda Goylabiyeva, 17, from leaving her home.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said the girl's parents had given their blessing to the marriage

The paper claimed that the commander had given the family an ultimatum to hand over the girl, threatening reprisals if they did not.

'Marriage blessing'

Chechnya's authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a diehard loyalist of President Vladimir Putin, has in recent years outlawed the abduction of brides and underage marriage.

Although polygamy is banned under Russian law, reports say the Chechen leader is in favour of it.

He took to his Instagram account on Thursday to criticise Russian media coverage of "this fuss ordered by some liberals".

"The girl's parents gave their blessing to this marriage," he claimed, arguing that reports to the contrary were filled with lies.

Elena Milashina was said to have visited the girl's village of Baytarki on Thursday, but then left Chechnya after being warned by police officers from Siberia of a potential threat to her safety from Chechen police.

The Chechen interior ministry said it was "extremely surprised" by the alleged threat and accused the reporter of acting provocatively by entering people's homes in the village.

Ms Milashina is well known in Russia for her reports on the northern Caucasus.

She was attacked in Moscow in 2012, when her laptop was stolen.

In 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, another renowned Novaya Gazeta investigative reporter and vocal critic of President Putin's war in Chechnya, was murdered at her block of flats in Moscow.

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