Saturday, March 04, 2006

Out Soprano-ing the Soprano's

Russian student Roman Bespalov 'forced to behead man' in kidnap plot
I have to give this Roman Bespalov, an agriculture student in Samara, a great
deal of credit for sticking to principles. From the Guardian UK news article:
When Roman Bespalov told police a local thug had savagely beaten him, he unleashed a chain of surreal events that allegedly led him to be forced into beheading a complete stranger in a forest glade.

On Wednesday a court in the Russian town of Samara ... began the trial of Vladimir Kalyadentsev for murdering two migrant workers from Uzbekistan known only by their surnames, Rakhmanaliev and Iskanderov. Mr. Bespalov is the prosecution's key witness against Mr. Kalyadentsev, and his accomplice in the alleged crime, the callousness of which has shocked Russia.

A farming student, Mr. Bespalov got into a fight with several local men in a local village nightclub in September 2004. He was taken to hospital with severe damage to his spleen, and subsequently told the police he thought a local man, Vladislav Chebayev, was among his attackers. Prosecutors allege that days before Mr. Chebayev was due to go on trial, on May 3 last year, Mr. Bespalov was abducted by a gang of men who thrust him into a car, binding his hands and covering his eyes with a woolly hat.

When the hat was removed, Mr. Bespalov told the court this week, he was in a forest glade surrounded by masked men in camouflage. He told the court, according to media reports: "Another two men, their heads bound up by rags, lay down with their heads resting on a log, so I was unable to see their faces."

He said Mr. Kalyadentsev, who is Mr. Chebayev's nephew, told him to watch what he was doing closely and that he would be killed if he closed his eyes. "Kalyadentsev took the axe and with three blows severed the head of one of the [Uzbek] victims," Mr. Bespalov said.

He said Mr. Kalyadentsev held a knife to his throat, threatening him with the same fate if he did not cut off the other Uzbek's head. "He was filming it all, and said I had to smile into the camera. I did what he asked."

Mr. Bespalov said the accused then told him to withdraw his testimony against Mr. Chebayev or the tape would appear on local television and his relatives would be killed. The tape was also designed to discredit him as a future witness, police believe. Mr. Bespalov was then taken to a bus stop and when he got home contacted the police. The two headless corpses were found 16 days later, adding weight to the outlandish tale Mr. Bespalov had told the police.

The source said: "I've seen a lot of murders in my time, but this is something especially cynical and a rare case of impertinence and daring."

The crime has also highlighted the fate of illegal labourers, part of an estimated 12 million-strong army of illegal immigrants who come from across the former Soviet Union to do Russia's menial, poorly paid jobs. Little is known about the two victims, except that they did not have legal residency in Russia.
Links to related articles on Kommersant and NEWSru. If Roman Bespalov's story proves to be true, I think he is exceptionally brave to come forward with his story. It is very unusual - when I spoke with Katja about this story - her first response was that Bespalov will be killed. In the US we have evolved a witness protection program, in order to combat organized crime - such programs don't exist in Russia (to the best of my knowledge and those I speak with). So essentially, Bespalov is at the mercy of these men after the trial.


Megan Case said...

Unrelated comment -- did you see a certain troll's most recent blog post re: Stalin? Outrageous! I don't read him too often, it makes me upset, but sometimes I can't resist the temptation. I'm always sorry afterward. Ugh.

W. Shedd said...

Nope - I just don't go there anymore. I went a few times, was surprised how so few really challenged his crazy assertions. Once I got the gist of what he was all about, I just decided to avoid that blog. There are too many other people writing intelligent or interesting things about Russia and Russian culture. I also don't need to be insulted, misquoted, or taken out of context - in order to promote his agenda.

There is a strong element of the contrarian that runs through certain Russian individuals. I would compare it to some French people that I have known also. I suppose they consider it to be part of intelligent debate, to take a completely opposing point of view - but the application often comes across as childishly contrarian.

Anyway, I probably wrote too much about this. :-)