‘Squash him!’ Video of gruesome bear-killing in Russia goes viral — and could be a crime

By Avi Selk, The Washington Post - December 28, 2016

First a polar bear was blown up off the Siberian coast, and now a brown bear has been run down in an Arctic forest. Twice in two weeks, video of a Russian bear’s bloody end has spread virally and provoked outrage in Moscow.

“Squash him! Squash him!” a man yells in Agence France-Presse’s translation of the latest video, as reported in the Guardian. The bear flails in deep snow, unable to run fast enough, and finally disappears beneath the grill.

The truck then backs up. The bear writhes in a tire track near a crushed sapling.

A man climbs on the hood of the vehicle to take a photograph. In the next shot, the bear lies dead.

Russia’s interior minister told local news outlets that workers in the northeastern region of Yakutia shot the video, which has been viewed tens of thousands of times since it was posted Monday on YouTube – categorized as entertainment.

Russian investigators said on Wednesday they had opened a criminal case. Tass, a Russian outlet, reported that the workers could face up to a year in prison if convicted of animal cruelty.

Bears that aren’t in hibernation by now, Agence France-Presse reported, often are considered dangerous and are shot by authorities.

But now some Russian officials are on the side of the bears.

“We will strive for the most serious punishment for these scoundrels,” Russia’s environment minister, Sergei Donskoi, wrote on Facebook. “Such crimes should be followed by real prison terms!”

State media reported that Donskoi condemned another viral video last week – after a cook on an Arctic island allegedly fed explosives to a polar bear and recorded the aftermath.

Sputnik International reported that the cook denied killing the bear, telling a local news outlet the bear ate a flare by mistake.

That didn’t stop the public from weighing in. A change.org petition urging “justice for polar bear” got thousands of signatures.

Last year, another Russian brown bear was attacked in nearly identical circumstances to this week’s incident.

Tass reported in August 2015 that three residents from the Sakhalin region could go to prison after running over a young brown bear eight times while its paw was stuck under a tire.

That bear, too, became the subject of a viral video. But it managed to escape the ordeal.

Responding to public outrage, Tass reported, the governor of Sakhalin ordered forestry officials to locate the wounded bear and get it medical care. It is unclear whether they succeeded.