Time to rescue: in Sri Lanka, three Russians will go to jail for their love of insects

Time to rescue: in Sri Lanka, three Russians will go to jail for their love of insects

Time to rescue: in Sri Lanka, three Russians will go to jail for their love of insects
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5 November 2021, 12:15
In the world
Photo: news.myseldon.com
In Sri Lanka, three Rostovites "got stuck" in a bad story - they are going to be tried for illegally caught insects. The criminal case brought against young lovers of beetles and caterpillars has been going on for almost two years, they are not allowed to go to Russia and are kept under house arrest.

Sergey Kron

For some reason, the Russians were remembered not by the consular officers who are supposed to help the Russians to return to their homeland, but by the BBC correspondents who tried to understand the details of this seemingly forgotten case.

As it turned out, an employee of the Rostov zoo Alexander Ignatenko and two of his friends - geologist Nikolay Kilafyan and journalist Artem Ryabov do not admit accusations of smuggling and malicious abuse of local insects. Although they know that if they prove guilty in court, all three face up to 20 years in prison. Or you will have to pay a large fine of several thousand dollars.

“Sri Lanka has a very diverse nature”, - Ignatenko explained his choice, - Savannahs, rain forests, mountains, coastline. There was a chance to see everything, albeit at a gallop".

They arrived in early February and the vacation was great for over two weeks. They were going to return to Rostov on March 1. But on February 26, they were detained by rangers at the exit from the Horton Plains National Park, near the city of Nuwara Eliya.

Alexander recalls that on that day, due to the cold at night, they did not get enough sleep and arrived in the park late: “We were shooting landscapes at sunset and were delayed. As it turned out, it was necessary to walk nine kilometers to the exit from the park”.

The late arrival aroused suspicion among the park's guards. They took cameras, backpacks, documents from the Russians and searched them. As written in the Sri Lankan media in his pocket Ignatenko rangers found several dead insects.

In an interview with reporters, Alexander explained that he had found these insects outside the park the day before, but forgot to post it. He said that he collected insects along the roads and in the hotel garden in order to take pictures in good light and to determine the species. Then he was going to return them to freedom".

Rangers found in the camera pictures of insects, previously taken by Alexander in other places. And they began to accuse the Russians of their illegal hunting.

“We tried to prove that we didn’t catch anyone, and there are different dates in the photo. But the Sri Lankans did not react, they only repeated: "Big problems." We were also threatened that we would have to pay a fine - 50 thousand dollars. We wondered why they were demanding such gigantic sums. We thought they had bad English, ”Ignatenko said.

In the car that the guys rented, the police allegedly found another 184 species of insects. Among them were butterflies and bees. The Russians were not allowed to call the embassy. They were taken into custody.

In the hotel, according to local newspapers, investigators allegedly found more than 500 representatives of insects and small animals belonging to 23 species, as well as some plant species. Among the finds were chameleons, scorpions, frogs, geckos, snails, spiders.

“They even attributed to us the bones from the fruits that were found in the trash. Local media still talk about their unimaginable value. They also wrote that we were "biopirates" and were going to steal plant genes in order to produce a cure for cancer from them!", - young people are indignant.

While under arrest, the Russians managed to contact their relatives on social networks from someone else's phone, the BBC notes.

Talking about his son and his friends in trouble in Sri Lanka, Vladimir Kilafyan, Nikolay's father, smiles sadly. At first, he decided that the scammers were writing: "Well, imagine, a message in Latin:" Dad, we are in jail! " We are already waiting for them at home, just about to arrive". At these words, Kilafyan Sr. stopped smiling and said: "And then our nightmare began".

After contacting the Russian embassy, the relatives of the detainees hired a local lawyer in Sri Lanka. In less than six months, they spent almost 300 thousand rubles on his services. This did not bring success. Ignatenko believes that the lawyer simply deceived them.

In early April 2020, all three Russians were released on recognizance not to leave. This was facilitated by the covid. To prevent his outbreaks in prisons, the Sri Lankan authorities began to release those who were accused of minor crimes.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed this information to the BBC. On Smolenskaya Square, they said that the Sri Lankan authorities "provide the necessary assistance." Relatives were also reassured, saying: "Our consular officer is usually present at court sessions".

According to the British newspaper, Ignatenko, Kilafyan and Ryabov currently live in a cheap rented basement on the outskirts of Nuwara Eliya. Relatives send money to pay for housing and food. But all the same, “nature lovers” from Rostov-on-Don are begging.

It turns out that the three Russians are not the only ones in Sri Lanka who have been accused of illegal capture or smuggling of insects. In 2020, a Chinese citizen was detained at Colombo airport. Airport security found he had two hundred poisonous scorpions packed in plastic boxes. The Chinese had to pay a fine of US $ 550.

A year earlier, five tourists from Slovakia were detained while trying to take out butterflies and plants from the Sinharaja Forest, a World Heritage Site. Some of these insects were found by wildlife protection officers during a search of the house where the tourists were staying.

Sri Lanka has adopted tough laws on the protection of natural resources, the BBC said. Thus, in national parks, reserves and beyond, it is forbidden to kill, injure or collect any invertebrates, living or dead, included in the corresponding "protection" list. For this, a fine of up to 100 thousand rupees ($ 1,350) is provided, or a prison sentence of up to forty years.

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