Russian satirist faces up to eight years jail for YouTube sketch that mocks officials

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A Russian satirical filmmaker was charged with hooliganism on Wednesday and could be jailed for up to eight years over a YouTube sketch in which a fictional local official accidentally blows up a bus stop, his lawyer told Reuters.

More than 1.78 million people have watched the Sept. 20 video “Vitaly Nalivkin prevented a terrorist act,” in which the blundering official tries to destroy a suspicious bag at the bus stop by firing at it with a shoulder-launched grenade. The bag turns out to be filled with carrots.

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Andrei Klochkov, who directed the sketch, was 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.

The charge came two weeks after the local interior ministry in the Ussuriysk region of Russia’s far east announced it had opened a criminal case over allegations that the bus stop had been damaged.

Kletskin said the grounds for the case were “completely ridiculous.” He said the actors, from a group of satirists known as “Barakuda,” had used legally purchased firecrackers, not explosives, and a local government inspector had certified there was no actual damage.

In a statement on Instagram, the ensemble said a month and a half had elapsed after the filming before “riot police rushed in, put us face down on the floor and confiscated all the equipment.”

They appealed to the public for donations to cover their legal costs, saying: “You know we are not criminals!”

Actress Larisa Krivonosova, who parodies an interior ministry spokeswoman in the sketch, was jailed for three months in October for violating restrictions on her movements imposed in connection with previous public order offences.

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