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Russia: Blogger Arrested For Pneumonic Plague Rumors

Ivan_PeregorodievIvan Peregorodiev, a 22-year-old medical student and blogger, has been arrested on December 3 for spreading rumors about pneumonic plague in the city of Saratov. Authorities accused him of disseminating false information related to an act of terrorism. On December 2, the Russian bloggers actively discussed allegations that a large population of Saratov had been infected with H1N1 virus. The rumors said that authorities concealed many fatalities caused by the swine flu and the whole city was about to be closed for quarantine [RUS]. Later, people started talking about alleged cases of pneumonic plague blaming them on a local “anti-plague” research institute. The situation became so serious that Saratov Governor Pavel Ipatov [ENG] interrupted his visit to Belarus and returned to the city to deal with public outcry. Citing a post from a Russian social news Web site, Ivan Peregorodiev, aka lj-user iperegorodiev (his account is currently suspended), challenged an official statement that dismissed any possibility of pneumonic plague:

Turns out we may have a plague. “The results of the autopsy of people that died of swine flu – that became publicly available – caused panic. According to witnesses, the results of lung destruction resembled the cases of pneumonic plague described in medical literature.” (http://smi2.ru/saratoff/c243648) [RUS] Do our authorities tell the truth when they dismiss this information? Today they plan to spray disinfectant solution against pneumonic plague from helicopters… P.S. And here is another one http://www.epidemiolog.ru/prof/index.php?SECTION_ID=&ELEMENT_ID=3868 [RUS]

He followed up with another post just hours after the first one:

What is going on? Gentlemen, here is the latest news from an epidemic station: helicopters are loaded with disinfectant solution. P.S. Plots of American movies about the Apocalypse become reality.

The city officials denied any rumors about the plague but confirmed 17 fatal cases of swine flu. The authorities also admitted that city hospitals were overcrowded and Saratov's budget did not have enough money to purchase H1N1 vaccine. Some bloggers [RUS] found Peregorodiev's message similar to the one that escalated the swine flu panic in Ukraine a month ago. Like in the case with Saratov, the rumors in Ukraine also had “helicopters spraying disinfectant solution.” The Saratov Prosecutor's Office quickly announced [RUS] its plans to find disseminators of the rumors and Ivan Peregorodiev became the first to be arrested. He was accused of transmitting a “deliberately false information related to an act of terrorism” (Article 207 of the Russian Criminal Code). The Prosecutor's Office did not explain how the information in Peregorodiev's blog posts and the pneumonic plague rumors were related to any act of terrorism. The Institute for Collective Action, a Russian non-profit organization, started a campaign [RUS] to free Peregorodiev. Activists argue that, by questioning an official statement of Saratov officials, the blogger was exercising his right to the freedom of speech.

UPD: Ivan was released from jail on December 4th but is still under suspicion of committing a crime, reports Novaya Gazeta.

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