Kremlin defends TV blackout of toddler's grisly death

2016-03-01 19:25
A child's illustration shows an angel among flowers outside a subway station in Moscow, Russia, where a woman was arrested. (Ivan Sekretarev, AP)

A child's illustration shows an angel among flowers outside a subway station in Moscow, Russia, where a woman was arrested. (Ivan Sekretarev, AP)

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Moscow - The Kremlin on Tuesday defended a controversial media blackout on the grisly murder of a toddler allegedly killed and beheaded by her nanny who then paraded the bloodied head on a Moscow street.

The death of the girl named Nastya, said by investigators to be just three or four years old, has shocked usually hardened Muscovites.

City residents turned out to lay flowers at the metro station where the black-clad nanny was spotted pacing up and down on Monday, waving the severed head of a child and threatening to "blow everyone up".

The suspect was detained by police on suspicion of butchering the girl, who had learning disabilities, at the family's nearby apartment in northwestern Moscow, before setting fire to the home and fleeing.

The agitated woman, who was reportedly shouting "Allahu Akbar" as she paraded the head, has been sent for psychiatric examinations, investigators said.

Some media said the suspect, identified as Gyulchekhra Bobokulova, a mother of three in her late 30s from Muslim-majority Uzbekisan, may have suffered manic psychosis.

While footage of the shocking incident was broadcast by several small television stations, national broadcasters did not report the murder.

'Too monstrous to show' 

President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson denied the state-controlled channels had received a gag order from the Kremlin, but said the presidential administration approved of their decision.

"As far as we know, the channels indeed have taken a decision not to show this horrible tragedy," Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"And it seems to me one can only express solidarity with this decision of the channels because this is probably too monstrous to be shown on television."

He said the move was in line with international practice and was the channels' "civil stance".

The tragedy jolted a usually dispassionate Russian capital and by Tuesday afternoon mourners had laid heaps of flowers, toys, chocolate bars and balloons at the entrance of the Oktyabrskoe Pole metro station.

Some people at the scene made the sign of the cross, while Muslims prayed. Others looked bewildered, unaware of what happened, and one woman asked why television did not report the murder.

Kremlin critics derided the blackout, charging that national television would provide blanket coverage of a similar tragedy were it to happen in the West.

Others noted that nothing had prevented state-controlled Channel One television from airing a false report claiming the Ukrainian army had nailed a 3-year-old boy to a board in the east of the country in 2014.

"One simply needs to understand that federal media tell stories not about life in Russia, but about a parallel reality in Ukraine, Europe, and Syria," said Sergei Medvedev, a professor at the Higher School of Economics.

Some experts said the Kremlin did not want to inflame anti-immigrant or nationalist sentiments.

NTV television channel said it would not comment, while Rossiya-1 and Channel One declined immediate comment.

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