A Russian governor shot and killed a sleeping bear, but his administration says it was all by the book
On September 3, YouTube user Dmitry Larin shared a three-minute video showing Irkutsk Governor Sergey Levchenko killing a bear. Set in a snow-covered forest, the footage shows the governor on a hunting trip with several other men. He’s handed a loaded rifle and later fires multiple shots into a bear’s lair. The men then start shaking his hand, congratulating him. Before the video ends, a bear’s corpse is dragged out from its lair by a rope tied around its neck.
In bright read text, captions accompanying the footage read: “A sleeping bear is shot at point-blank range” and “Any hunter, indeed any decent human being, can judge for themselves what happens here.”
The YouTube account that posted the video belongs to someone calling himself Dmitry Larin, who’s never shared anything else on the website. At the time of this writing, the video has more than 28,000 views. Some of the most popular comments posted by YouTube users call Governor Levchenko an “animal torturer,” “a beast,” and a “vile killer.”
Warning: This video features graphic footage of animal cruelty. Viewer discretion is advised.
Offended by the footage, State Duma deputy Nikolai Nikolaev, who heads the parliament’s Natural Resources Committee, announced that he has appealed to Russia’s Interior Ministry and Attorney General’s Office, asking that they evaluate the governor’s actions. Nikolaev says Levchenko’s behavior “is worthy of neither a governor, a Siberian, nor a man.”
Hunting in Russia is illegal when carried out in violation of the federal government’s special restrictions, according to Criminal Code Article 258. By order of the Natural Resources Ministry, it’s against the law to hunt brown bears in the winter, and permits are only issued between March 21 and June 10 and also from August 1 to November 30. Hunting illegally in groups is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Irina Alashkevich, Governor Levchenko’s press secretary, told the news agency TASS that the video was recorded in November 2016 at a game reserve in the Irkutsk region. She says the hunters had a permit, and attributed the recent publication of the footage to mudslinging ahead of elections for the region’s legislative assembly on September 9.
Nikolai Tereshchenko, the head of a hunting farm in Irkutsk and one of the men accompanying Governor Levchenko in the video, told the website IrkutskMedia that the hunt was legal. Tereshchenko insists that the bear was an “insomniac” that posed a danger to people. “To prevent any casualties, we did this. The dogs tracked his scent and drove the animal into its den,” he explained.