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19-year-old Volgograd resident arrested for burning Quran, allegedly ‘on Ukrainian intelligence orders’
The authorities in Volgograd arrested local resident Nikita Zhuravel on suspicion of setting a Quran on fire on camera in front of a mosque, reports the Investigative Committee.
The video clip that led to the arrest was shot no later than May 19 at a Volgograd mosque and was posted on “an Internet portal under the control of the Center for Informational and Psychological Operations of Ukraine’s Armed Forces,” reads the Investigative Committee’s announcement.
The committee says that Zhuravel admitted under questioning that he had burned the Quran “on directions from Ukrainian intelligence services for a reward of 10,000 rubles [around $125]” and had given a recording of the action to a Ukrainian intelligence officer. He was charged with offending the feelings of religious believers, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
The FSB has distributed a video of Zhuravel’s arrest and interrogation. Independent publication Mediazona notes that the video appears to be heavily edited. The suspect first suggests that he was arrested for filming fighter jets. Then, answering leading questions from a person off camera, he says that he was contacted by “people from Ukraine” and “offered some money.”
A “source in a law enforcement department” told RIA Novosti, a state propaganda news agency, that “there is direct involvement of American intelligence” in the case.
Zhuravel’s case was transferred to Chechnya’s investigative department by personal order from Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee. Russia’s justice minister, Konstantin Chuychenko suggested that after he is convicted, Zhuravel should be sent to prison in “a region with a predominantly Muslim population.”
Zhuravel is reportedly a 19-year-old native of Sevastopol who has been studying in Volgograd for a few years. In one of the clips distributed by the FSB, he appears to be employed as a food delivery worker.
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