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‘I am not a terrorist’: British mayor detained in Russia for taking pics ‘not offended’

A British man briefly detained in Samara after police thought he was a possible terrorist says he is “not offended” by what happened. John Scraggs, who is the Mayor of Chippenham, went to the city on the Volga River to take photos of trains and trams.

Mr Scraggs, 69, is a huge public transport enthusiast and a keen photographer. He had come to the city of Samara, which is around 1,000 kilometers south east of Moscow, to take photos of its transport system. He was part of a group of 20 who had come on the trip.

However, his problems started after he began taking photos at a metro station. “I don’t think they understood what we were doing,” Scraggs mentioned speaking to RT. “I think they were suspicious of us taking photos of the metro station and I think it was just one policeman who was suspicious of us and called some other police to the metro station to ask us some questions.”

He was detained by local police for five hours with a fellow colleague, but was eventually released after the Samara law enforcements realized a genuine mistake had been made.

“I am not offended,” the 69 year-old added. “There are other places which I would like to see in Russia and I have not even seen Moscow properly yet.”

John Scraggs with fellow transport enthusiasts during their visit to Samara (photograph courtesy of John Scraggs)

Scraggs is currently the Mayor of Chippenham, which is a large town in the south west of the United Kingdom. Following the confusion, according to the Briton, the Mayor of Samara has invited him to return to the city, though with no threat of arrest this time. “I find their invitation very interesting, but as the mayor here, I might not have so much time to spare,” Scraggs said.

The Samara police confirmed that they detained Scraggs, with one law enforcement officer stating to the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, “We have started to pay a lot more attention to foreigners and transport after the terrorist attacks in Volgograd. There attacks took place on a bus, a trolleybus and a train station. This is why he was detained. We check everyone, especially tourists who film public transport.”

Tension is high in Russia following twin bombings in the city of Volgograd on the 29th and 30th December, which killed 34 people. Volgograd is about 800 kilometers south of Samara on the Volga River. One of the bombs went off at the entrance to the city’s train station, while the following day, a bomb was detonated on a trolleybus.

Two months earlier, in October 2013, seven people were killed when a terrorist from Dagestan blew up a bus in the same city, also injuring 36.

Following these incidents, security has been heightened in Russia, especially with public transport.

A train pulling into a station on the Samara metro (photograph courtesy of John Scraggs)