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Following the two explosions on April 15, 2013, the intense manhunt for the ones believed responsible led to the arrest of 19-year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the death of his older brother, Tamerlan. As events continue to unfold and more information becomes available, conflicting news stories have generated a sense of cynicism among many observers. While conspiracy theories continue to flourish over the Boston Marathon bombings being a "false-flag operation" orchestrated by the Federal government, particularly among conservative groups, the bombings received little notice in the former Soviet Union. That is, until the discovered that the main suspects were Chechens.
Since the involvement of the Tsarnaev brothers became public, their role in the Boston bombings have dominated the Russian language Internet (known as RuNet for short). Due to the popularity of conspiracy theories among RuNet users, accusations that Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were framed by the U.S. intelligence community have become especially well-received in their native Chechnya. With members of the Tsarnaev family being particularly outspoken in demanding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's release and calling for an investigation into his brother's death.
Many of the most extreme conspiracy theories, including accusations that the widely-seen pictures of victims who had lost limbs following the explosion were all faked using actors. Using pictures and materials taken directly from American conspiracy sites, RuNet bloggers including fralik are largely repeating claims that have since been debunked in the Western media. These include claims that one victim, Jeff Bauman Jr., who lost both his legs in the bombing was actually a previous amputee named Nick Vogt. While other bloggers have tried to rebut these claims, the idea that the FBI and the CIA was actually behind the bombings is definitely appealing.
Chechen bloggers are extremely outspoken in rejecting evidence that the Tsarnaev brothers are responsible for the bombings. Along with members of the Tsarnaev family, Chechen defenders include the Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov, and even his political opponents. Even in a country as divided as Chechnya, the innocence of the Tsarnaevs seems to be one topic on which everyone agrees. In commenting on the Boston bombings, President Kadyrov has stated that "what happened in Boston is the fault of the American security services" while his political opponents are blaming American and Russian security agencies alike.
Along with endless speculation about who was actually responsible for the bombings, there is also an active defense of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev underway. An April 21 petition on Avaaz.org titled "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is innocent” has already gathered thousands of signatures by Russians and Chechens alike. The petition has since been closed with no word about what the petition's author plans to do with the names received to date. As events unfold and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev goes on trial, the political storm will likely become even more intense.
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