MOSCOW – The Kremlin on Tuesday defended a media blackout on the grisly murder of a toddler, allegedly by her nanny, who paraded the girl’s bloody head on a Moscow street.
The death of the girl, named Nastya, who investigators said was just 3 or 4 years old, has shocked usually hardened Muscovites.
City residents turned out to lay flowers at the subway station where the black-clad nanny was spotted pacing up and down on Monday, waving the severed head of a child and threatening to “blow everyone up.”
The suspect — dubbed “the bloody nanny” in the media — was detained on suspicion of butchering the girl, who had suffered from learning disabilities and epilepsy, at the family’s apartment in northwestern Moscow, before setting fire to the home and fleeing.
The agitated woman, who was reportedly also shouting “Allahu akbar,” has been sent for psychiatric examination, investigators said.
The suspect, identified as Gyulchekhra Bobokulova, a mother of three from Muslim-majority Uzbekistan, was set to appear in a court on Wednesday, with a judge expected to place her under official arrest.
Many questioned the professionalism of police after she was allowed to pace up and down outside the metro station with the head for 20 minutes.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the General Prosecutor said a probe would be launched into the matter.
The mass-circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets, citing Uzbek police, said the woman, in her 30s, had suffered from schizophrenia for 15 years.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, citing a close family friend, said the live-in nanny had recently become very religious, spent a lot of time online and had brought home a prayer mat.
While footage of the shocking incident was released by several small television stations, national broadcasters did not report the murder.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied the state-controlled channels had received a gag order from the Kremlin but said the presidential administration approved of their decision. “As far as we know, the channels indeed have taken a decision not to show this horrible tragedy,” said Dmitry Peskov. “And it seems to me, one can only express solidarity with this decision of the channels, because this is probably too monstrous to be shown on television.”
He said the move was in line with international practice and was the channels’ “civil stance.”
The tragedy jolted a usually dispassionate Moscow. By Tuesday evening, mourners had laid heaps of flowers, toys, chocolate bars and balloons at the entrance to the Oktyabrskoe Pole station.
Some people at the scene made the sign of the cross, and Muslims prayed. A call was made on social media for a memorial rally Tuesday to support the family.
Critics derided the media blackout, charging that national television would provide blanket coverage of a similar tragedy in the West.
Others noted that nothing had prevented state-controlled Channel One from airing a false report claiming the Ukrainian Army had nailed a 3-year-old boy to a board in 2014.
“One simply needs to understand that federal media tell stories not about life in Russia but about a parallel reality in Ukraine, Europe and Syria,” wrote Sergei Medvedev, a professor at the Higher School of Economics.
Some experts said the Kremlin did not want to inflame anti-immigrant or nationalist sentiments.
Channel One’s deputy general director, Kirill Kleimyonov, said the gruesome footage could not be shown “under any circumstances.”