Russian satirist faces up to 8 years in prison for a sketch that mocks officials

Actor Andrei Neretin, who plays the role of fictional regional official Vitaly Nalivkin, poses in this undated handout photo from Reuters. Merkuriy LLC / Handout via REUTERS

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MOSCOW, Nov. 24 (Reuters) – A Russian satirical filmmaker was charged Wednesday of hooliganism and said could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison for a YouTube sketch in which a fictional local official accidentally blew up a bus stop his lawyer told Reuters.

More than 1.78 million people have seen the September 20 video “Vitaly Nalivkin prevented an act of terrorism” in which the clumsy officer tried to destroy a suspicious bag at the bus stop by firing a shoulder grenade at it. It turns out that the bag is filled with carrots.

Andrei Klochkov, who headed the sketch, has been charged by police and could face 5-8 years in prison if convicted, his lawyer Alexei Kletskin said. Another team member, producer Semyon Vavilov, was named as a suspect.

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The indictment came two weeks after the local interior ministry in the Ussuriysk region of Russia’s Far East announced it had initiated criminal proceedings for alleged damage to the bus stop.

Kletskin said the reasons for the fall were “completely ridiculous”. He said the actors from a group of satirists known as “barracuda” used legally purchased fireworks and no explosives, and a local government inspector confirmed that there was no actual damage.

In a statement on Instagram, the ensemble said it was a month and a half after filming before “riot police rushed in, laid us face down on the floor and confiscated all of our equipment.”

They appealed to the public for donations to cover legal fees and said, “You know we are not criminals!”

Actress Larisa Krivonosova, who parodies a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry in the sketch, was sentenced to three months in prison in October for violating her movement restrictions imposed in connection with previous violations of public order.

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Reporting by Anton Zverev Writing by Mark Trevelyan Editing by Peter Graff

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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