Yury Khovansky, a popular Russian YouTuber and comedian with more than 4.4 million subscribers, was arrested in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday on suspicion of "justifying terrorism." The 31-year-old allegedly published a video that justified the 2002 hostage-taking crisis at Moscow's Dubrovka Theater. He mocked the government's investigation into the siege, which was led by attackers who demanded Russia withdraw forces from Chechnya.
The investigative committee said Khovansky was detained on Thursday, reports Radio Free Europe. They also published a video on YouTube showing him laying facedown on a floor with his hands behind his head. Khovansky is also heard admitting to his guilt, although it is not clear if his statement was coerced. "At some time, I performed a song with justification of, let us say, terrorism. I fully regret it and admit my guilt," he said in the clip. According to local reports, another blogger, Andrei Niyodov, was detained as a witness in the case.
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Khovansky published the video at the center of the case last year. In it, he allegedly used offensive words to describe the young victims of the hostage crisis. In February, he apologized for the video, saying he was "ashamed" of it. Khovansky will reportedly remain detained until his trial starts in August.
The hostage crisis happened on Oct. 22, 2002, when a group of Chechen militants stopped a performance at the Dubrovka Theater and took the entire audience hostage. The crisis lasted days, until Oct. 26, when Russian special forces used an unknown chemical agent as they entered the building. All of the hostage-takers were killed, but about 130 hostages died as well. The Russian government was widely criticized for its handling of the crisis, with many allegedly not receiving the medical care they needed after they were exposed to the chemical.