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Russia: Who's behind beheading video?

Publisher Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Publication Date 15 August 2007
Cite as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Russia: Who's behind beheading video?, 15 August 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46c32625a.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Russia - The web video shows the victims kneeling in front of a Nazi flag, 14Aug2007The video has sparked intense debate in Russia (TASS)

August 15, 2007 (RFE/RL) – Russia's Interior Ministry says it is investigating an Internet video purporting to show the brutal killings of two men – a Tajik and a Daghestani – by Russian ultranationalists. One suspect has so far been detained.

The grisly footage continues to fuel intense debate in Russia and has raised a number of questions. Who is behind it? Is it authentic? And should such videos be permitted on the Internet?

According to the Russian search engine Yandex, the video is currently the most discussed topic on Russian-language Internet blogs.

Footage Withdrawn

The footage was first posted August 12 by a user of the LiveJournal blog. It was rapidly pulled from most websites on which it had subsequently appeared.

The graphic scenes were also withdrawn from LiveJournal. But Anton Nosik, a representative of Sup, the company that oversees the Russian section of LiveJournal, says the site has taken no action against the blogger who first posted the video.

"It is necessary to control the Internet in order to bar the spread of such films. But this is impossible in a country where authorities exert a strong control over ideology. Authorities would ban everything linked to opposition activities." – Oleg Panfilov, Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations

"Preliminary censorship is, of course, impossible on the Internet," Nosik says. "People post what they feel must be posted, and write what they feel must be written. There is a list of things that LiveJournal users agree not to do, but posting pictures of an execution is not on the list. There is a clause forbidding comments that incite ethnic hatred, but whether it applies to this particular video is an open question."

The video shows two men kneeling on the ground in a forest, their arms and legs bound. Behind them hangs a large flag with a Nazi swastika.

A third man beheads one of the captives with a knife, a disturbing scene that lasts a full 90 seconds. The second captive is shot in the head and drops forward into a freshly dug grave.

Two masked men then raise their arms in a Nazi salute.

The video is accompanied by a note from an unknown organization calling itself the National Socialist Party of Rus.

Aleksandr Verkhovsky, the director of the SOVA center, a private organization that monitors hate crimes in Russia, says he has never heard of this group. But he says the footage appears to be real.

Russia's RIA Novosti news agency cites a Russian Interior Ministry spokeswoman as saying investigators claim the servers on which the video was posted are hosted by "foreign states."

Should Content Be Screened?

The graphic content and message of the video has raised questions of whether Russian Internet providers should do more to screen content.

But Oleg Panfilov, who heads the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, says Russia is not ready for new laws that would regulate what goes on the Internet.

"It is necessary to control the Internet in order to bar the spread of such films," Panfilov says. "But this is impossible in a country where authorities exert a strong control over ideology. Authorities would ban everything linked to opposition activities."

Many viewers, including some who identified themselves as ultranationalists, have expressed horror and denounced the graphic video.

Russian nationalist politicians also condemned the film, which they said brings them into disrepute.

Aleksandr Belov, the leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, branded it a "provocation" intended to discredit Russian nationalist ideas.

(RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report)

Copyright notice: Copyright (c) 2007-2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036

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