Blogger outside Khabarovsk is arrested after sharing video that allegedly shows cops attending a mobster’s funeral
On January 8, reputed mobster Yuri Zarubin was laid to rest in the town of Amursk, about 150 miles outside Khabarovsk. That same day, Twitter user Mikhail Svetlov shared footage of the funeral procession, recorded by a local woman. Svetlov claims the ceremony blocked road traffic (though the woman who filmed the procession says this isn’t true). A few minutes after this content went up on Twitter, a user named VictorKvert2008 wrote that Zarubin’s pallbearers allegedly included the city’s district attorney and the chief of police. According to the news agency Rosbalt, another Amursk resident wrote online about the funeral and planned to share his own footage of police officers participating in the procession, but he decided not to publish the video, after threats from the authorities.
Local law enforcement deny that any officers took part in the mobster’s burial, and the district attorney’s office says the city’s prosecutor was in Khabarovsk on the day of the funeral. The police have threatened defamation charges, pending the results of their preliminary investigation into the video shared online. The authorities also deny that road traffic was shut down during Zarubin’s funeral procession, pointing out that officers actually ticketed participants who obstructed cars. Officials even revealed that the man who published the video has a criminal record, but they have not released his name to the public.
Police subsequently started harassing a local blogger for reposting the video shared on Twitter by Mikhail Svetlov. Viktor Toroptsev says he republished the funeral footage on YouTube and Instagram, but he deleted the posts just 15 minutes later. After another 15 minutes, he says he received a telephone call from the local police, summoning him to the station for questioning. Subsequently, both the police and the district attorney summon Toroptsev several times. “My channel wasn’t the first to repost this, but I’m the one who got screwed over,” the blogger says. On January 12, traffic police pulled him over for driving with expired documents, brought him into the station, and seized his license. Officials say it was suspended in May 2018, which Toroptsev flatly denies. Two days later, he was sentenced to 10 days in jail. Toroptsev promptly declared a hunger strike, demanding his release and the return of his driver’s license. He’s also suggested that he might emigrate to Canada, if the police pressure doesn’t let up.
The Investigative Committee has opened a defamation case. “The messages contain falsities defaming law enforcement officers,” the agency said in a statement about the funeral footage shared online. News of the criminal case first appeared on the regional Investigative Committee’s website on January 17, and later disappeared without explanation, but not before the state news agencies TASS and RIA Novosti both reported the story.
Police investigating the case also searched the home of one of Toroptsev’s friends. On the morning of January 17, officers raided the home of Mikhail Potapenkov in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, local human rights activists told the website Mediazona. Police reportedly seized all of Potapenkov’s computer equipment, showing him what was supposedly a warrant for the search, but refusing to let him read the document. The ruling apparently mentioned Viktor Toroptsev.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock