Russia: TV news gives arrest 'Hollywood treatment'

Russian bloggers have been casting a cynical eye over state TV's "Hollywood-style" coverage of a high-profile police arrest.

Police seized Azerbaijani national Orkhan Zeynalov in connection with the killing of a local man, which had prompted local people to attack places frequented by Muslim migrants in the suburb of West Biryulyovo. Some felt coverage of the arrest ran like a slick silver-screen thriller. The media had unusually free access to key events, capturing a helicopter swooping down onto the roof of Moscow police headquarters, before Zeynalov was bundled out by black-clad officers in balaclavas and frisked over the bonnet of a police car. The cowering suspect was then hauled before Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev. Some channels even showed coverage from the scene of the arrest, in a forest, with the officers slapping Zeynalov about and pinning him to the ground with their boots.

Among liberals, top photoblogger Ilia Varlamov called the coverage "patriotic cinema", and thought some of it staged, especially the frisking. "When is the IMAX 3D version coming out?" he quipped. "The Empire Strikes Back" was how opposition activist Oleg Kozyrev continued the cinematic theme. "The pitiless images leave the viewer in no doubt about the severity of the Empire and the inevitability of punishment," he said. Sharp-eyed Daniil Alexandrov noticed that Zeynalov was bundled into an Mi-8 AMT helicopter but hauled out of a Ka-226.

Nationalist critics came to similar conclusions. Yegor Prosvirnin asks why state TV was treating a routine arrest "with a lavishness that the Americans would envy over their killing of Bin Laden". He ponders whether the authorities want to forestall larger protests by showing how tough they are in dealing with migrant crime. Vladimir Tor bluntly dubbed it the "public discrediting of the Russian judicial system on live TV". Radio presenter Vladimir Varfolomeyev agreed that it looked like the sort of media spectacular long associated with President Putin's rule. He also saw an echo of the early 19th century in the encounter between the minister and the suspect, akin to the way high-profile political prisoners were taken straight to the Kremlin in the days of Tsar Nicholas I.

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