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Hunting season on governor, who allegedly killed hibernating bear and told teen to shoot caged boar

Hunting season on governor, who allegedly killed hibernating bear and told teen to shoot caged boar
A Russian governor is in hot water after leaked footage of his hunting habits sparked public outrage. He is now facing prosecution for illegal hunting and his reputation has been marred by the media.

Sergey Levchenko, the governor of Siberia’s Irkutsk Region, came under fire from both the law enforcement and national Russian television this week. The cause is the footage of a hunt, in which he and his family members participated and which is seen as highly inappropriate by many people.

In one episode of the hunt, the governor is seen shooting an apparently hibernating bear inside its den as other members of the session cheer on him. In another, a teenage boy, presumably the governor’s grandson, is given a rifle and instructions to kill a boar lying inside a cage, which the boy does. The footage was reported by major Russian TV stations while the Prosecutor General ordered to check whether the hunt violated the laws of Russia.

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The hunting scandal in Irkutsk started slowly in September when the bear-killing episode was leaked online in a three-minute video. The footage shows the governor first testing out a rifle and later approaching a bear den and shooting inside several times as a guide instructs him what to do. The men present congratulate the official with his first and discuss how the trophy is a good photo opportunity before dragging the slain bear out.

(WARNING, GRAPHIC IMAGES)

The publication sparked a scandal in Irkutsk, but the governor’s office managed to quash it. The statement released by his press service said the hunt happened in November 2016 in a private reserve and was perfectly legal.

It also tried to explain away why Levchenko shot a helpless animal by claiming that the bear was not hibernating, and posed a threat to local residents. “Specially trained dogs chased it into the den, after which it was shot,” the statement claimed, sparking further anger from animal rights advocates, who called it an obvious lie.

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Nevertheless, the local law enforcement accepted the suggested timing of the video and the scandal seemed to die out. But last week a local video blogger, Artyom Pavlechko, released a 20-minute documentary about the governor and his hunting adventures, which featured more footage, including the execution of the caged boar.

(WARNING, GRAPHIC IMAGES)

The blogger claims he was present at two separate hunts involving Levchenko, one in November 2016 and another one in January 2017. He says the bear was killed during the second one – illegally – as it was dormant in its den. He is also the person, who claims that the teenager, who killed the boar in the film, is the governor’s grandson.

Levchenko addressed the accusations this week, brushing them aside. “The law enforcement checked it many times. I did not watch those videos and will not, because I know it all was legal,” he told journalists.

But the General Prosecutor’s office seems to disagree, since it ordered its subordinates in Irkutsk to start a new probe into the situation based on new evidence, which they did on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the grisly footage from the documentary was shown by several national TV channels. The coverage was highly critical of the governor, with some mocking the way he responded to the September leak.

“The governor’s people claim he saved dozens of lives and killed a potential man-eater,” said a report by the Vesti program. “The cunning animal simply was scared by the grand stature of the official and hid in the den and pretended it was asleep.”

Defenders of Levchenko say the scandal is purely political, with his opponents trying to smear the official ahead of local elections, in which his endorsements of candidates are an important factor.

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