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Russian Shootout: Gangsters Raid Farm in Siberia, Police Shrug

In August, a group of ten masked gangsters armed with Kalashnikovs stormed a farm in a hollow of Siberia. Its owner did his best to fight them off with a shotgun, and survived the forty gunshot wounds he reportedly sustained. But his son got an axe to the head, his dog got shot, his trucks torched and the whole neighborhood looked afterward like some recently mopped-up village in Kandahar. Security cameras caught it all on video.

Let me reiterate, this was in August, and all of the gangsters are still on the loose. Only three were ever arrested, still in possession of the masks and assault rifles featured in the video. Two were released, and one jumped bail, which had been set at about $20,000, much less than the cost of their arsenal. Not only have the cops done nothing, but they don't really seem to think that's a problem. As one bloated officer remarks in the video, she was on vacation at the time, and the person who had been in charge of the case is not around. So there you go, "There's nothing more to say."

This clip is just one of the horror shows to bubble up since the national media started paying attention to mob rule in the Russian regions, where every little town and village seems to have its own clique of roughnecks terrorizing the place. Three days ago, police even arrested a group of protestors who were pleading for help against a mafia group they said had been running their town for years.

The national media's sudden obsession with this trend (which is not really news in Russia) began on Nov. 5, when word hit the newspapers of another gang in a totally different part of Russia slaughtering 12 people, including four children, in a farmhouse, apparently after the victims refused to pay protection money.

With all the media coverage, the police response there has been a mix of panic, scapegoating and shameless denials. Local police chiefs blamed one rookie officer for protecting the gangsters, even though she claims her boss made her drop every case against them. On Monday, she put a video on YouTube begging President Medvedev to help her, the only recourse in Russia that seems to have a chance. Medvedev sent the General Prosecutor, who took only four days to concluded, on Thursday, that yes indeed, pretty much everything is this young woman's fault.

But these are all details. The point is that raids like the one in that video go on in Russia all the time. The mere fact that it took four months and a context of public concern for it to appear on television shows just how commonplace this stuff is. Look out for more videos like this one while the media fascination lasts. But don't look out for a whole lot to change.