Bloggers make police spokesman erase “criminal tattoo”

The head of Moscow’s police press service has got rid of a tattoo on his left hand, which drew attention of Russian bloggers. They speculated that the ring-like image may relate to prison symbols.

The photo of Colonel Viktor Biryukov, with a monochrome tattoo on the middle finger of his left hand, was published last week by popular blogger Rustem Adagamov in a report. The distinctive feature drew much attention due to its possible link to criminals.

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Tattoos made in accordance with special secret rules have been part of prison culture for decades in many countries, and Russia is no exception. Some bloggers speculated that the diamond-shaped ring on Biryukov’s hand may signify in criminal code his “high position among thieves” or even conviction for grand theft. The latter was dubious, as many noted that ex-convicts are barred from serving in the police.

On Thursday, one of the bloggers concerned said he asked Biryukov himself, and the colonel replied that the tattoo one of those stupid things young people do.

“Many boys in my neighborhood had images like this. We didn’t think about what they could mean,” police spokesman, who has been serving since 1979, said in an email.

He added that the heated debate on the Internet has finally prompted him to erase the controversial tattoo. “Now I’ve made up my mind and this Friday I’m going to get rid of this folly of youth.”

The latest scandal is the first occasion in modern Russian history when a tattoo has caused a public reaction, but the hapless policeman is surely not the only Russian official who has decorated himself with ink. Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had the name Valya tattooed on the fingers of his left hand, and former Press Minister Mikhail Lesin had an anchor tattoo, also on his left hand.