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10 Feb, 2020 17:04

Sick joke: Blogger arrested after brutal coronavirus prank on Moscow subway (VIDEO)

Sick joke: Blogger arrested after brutal coronavirus prank on Moscow subway (VIDEO)

A prankster is facing up to five years in prison for causing panic on the Moscow underground. That’s the high price he may yet pay for an ill-conceived attempt to turn Chinese coronavirus hysteria into online likes.

A young man in a black tracksuit and a face mask was walking along the subway car on one of the busiest lines before suddenly collapsing on the floor and starting to convulse in agony. Several guys rushed to help the poor soul, but then quickly fled, shouting “Coronavirus! Coronavirus!”

The event had a strong effect on other passengers, who started rushing out of the car as soon as the train reached its station, creating a real risk of a stampede and injuries.

The whole scene was filmed on camera and turned out be a prank, staged by blogger Karomat Dzhaborov and his friends.

The footage, uploaded online a week ago, was seen by many, including the police. Law enforcement has said the pranksters had deliberately “provoked panic” on the subway and also suspected them of hooliganism, which is quite a serious offense, carrying a maximum punishment of five years in prison or major fines.

After learning about the charges against him, Dzhaborov handed himself in at the Prosecutor’s Office.

The blogger’s lawyer said his client didn’t expect that the clip would lead to such harsh consequences. He claimed that Dzhaborov’s intentions were good when he staged his prank. “The aim was to attract public attention to the lack of face masks; to the problem of the coronavirus and the need for people to protect themselves with masks,” he explained.

But it’s the investigators who will now be looking into Dzhaborov’s motives, as the court ordered the detention of the prankster for 30 days, pending the probe.

Two of the prankster's accomplices were detained by the police later on Monday and have been placed under travel restrictions. Computers and smartphones with evidence in the case were seized from their homes.

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So far, only two cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Russia. Both patients are Chinese citizens who’d recently arrived in the country. They were quarantined with a moderate form of the disease and are now ready to be discharged from hospital.

Russia is undertaking a large-scale effort to prevent the spread of the epidemic, with special facilities set up in Moscow and elsewhere across the country to accept those who may become ill. More than 20,000 people, including Chinese citizens, persons with acute respiratory viral diseases and those who might’ve had contact with infected persons, all remain under medical surveillance.

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But the population is still stressed out by the constant media reportage on the coronavirus, which has already taken more than 900 lives. Face masks have become a scarce commodity at Russian pharmacies and the prices of anti-viral drugs spiked so dramatically that the government had to intervene.

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