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Russian Blogger's Pretrial Detention For Song About Dubrovka Incident Extended

Yury Khovansky is escorted to a court hearing in St. Petersburg in June.
Yury Khovansky is escorted to a court hearing in St. Petersburg in June.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A court in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, has extended the pretrial detention of blogger Yury Khovansky, who is charged with terrorism over a song he wrote mocking government efforts to resolve the deadly 2002 hostage-taking incident at Moscow's Dubrovka Theater.

The Kuibyshev district court on September 7 ruled that Khovansky's pretrial detention should be prolonged for at least another month.

The 31-year-old blogger, whose YouTube channel has more than 4.4 million subscribers, was detained in early June on suspicion of "justification of terrorism" for the performance of his song online last year.

In February, Khovansky publicly expressed regret over the song after the investigation into his performance was launched, saying he was "ashamed" of it.

Khovansky used what officials called "very offensive words" in the song when describing minors who were victims of the October 2002 tragedy at the Dubrovka Theater, where some 40 gunmen took hundreds of audience members, actors, and staff hostage and demanded the withdrawal of federal troops from Russia's Chechnya region.

The ordeal ended after 57 hours, when security forces stormed the building after pumping in toxic gas that neutralized the attackers but led to the deaths of many hostages.

The government says 130 people died, while an advocacy group for victims and relatives says the number is 174. Many choked on their own vomit, swallowed their tongues, or suffocated in cramped buses after security forces stormed the theater and dragged unconscious hostages out.

The Russian government has refused to reveal what gas was used in the operation, and relatives of victims accuse the government of seeking to cover up its role in the deaths of their family members.