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Russian made to apologise for mocking mosque in Chechnya

28 March 2023
Lev Yermalayev (left). Screengrab from 1ADAT.

A video has surfaced online of a young Russian apologising for filming and posting videos mocking Islamic traditions in a Chechen mosque last year.

Lev Yermalayev, reportedly a Russian student, posted a video on social media in November 2022 showing him and two others in Shali’s Pride of Muslims mosque. In the video, the young men can be seen and heard mocking the mosque and Islamic traditions. 

Yermalayev can be heard saying that women pray on the second floor, and that you can ‘take them’ — either referring to taking a photograph, or suggesting that the women can be ‘taken’ sexually. 

On 27 March, a video surfaced on social media showing Yermalayev issuing an apology for his conduct at the mosque. In the video, an unidentified man seated beside Yermalayev introduces the young man.

‘Recently, a video was circulated on the internet in which students came to Chechnya and insulted Chechen women in the mosque, the mosque itself, and behaved in an unworthy manner’, the unidentified man says. ‘These people were from Penza, so my brothers and I found them. Here is one of these people who would like to address Chechens and all Muslims and apologise.’

Yermalayev then introduces himself, and says that he was in Shali as part of a tour in Chechnya in November 2022.

‘There I behaved obscenely, insulted Muslim girls, for which I want to offer my deepest apologies to all the Chechen people and to all Muslims’, he says. ‘From this I learned the main lesson that before you say something, you need to think 500,000 times.’

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It is unclear if Yermalayev was coerced into filming the apology video.

The video then concludes with the unidentified man speaking in Ingush.

Yermalayev’s apology was reshared by several Telegram channels: 1ADAT, a Chechen opposition movement and Telegram channel, expressed its gratitude to ‘[their] Ingush brothers’ and criticised the Chechen government’s inaction.

‘[The Head of Chechnya Ramzan] Kadyrov not only allowed such an attitude towards Chechen women and religion, but he did not even bother to find these people and deal with them.  The “defender of the religion” has a gap’, wrote 1ADAT.

Tumso Abdurakhmanov, a Chechen opposition blogger, also decried the authorities’ ‘silence’.

‘A group of teenagers from Russia who came to Chechnya as tourists swear in the mosque, behave inappropriately vulgarly, show underwear in the mosque, infringe on the honour of the worshipers of the mosque, and film it all. A clear desecration of the mosque. Propaganda and the official authorities are silent for now,' wrote Abdurakhmanov on Telegram.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.