Russian top cop faces down Sherlock gags

Russian Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin, March 2019Image copyright

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‘The Case of Bastrykin’s Magnifying Glass’ has captivated the Russian media

Russia’s chief police investigator has become the butt of jokes and internet memes after he used a magnifying glass to study a laptop.

Alexander Bastrykin and his Investigative Committee colleagues are seen examining evidence on screen at their Moscow headquarters, in a report on prime-time TV bulletins.

The video highlights senior investigators responding to victims of crime at an official meeting, but Mr Bastrykin’s magnifying glass attracted the most attention even in the pro-Kremlin media.

And it set off a stream of internet memes, as the Piterburger news site reports, with ample examples.

An Ekho Moskvy news site poll says 53% of respondents thought the “Case of Bastrykin’s Magnifying Glass” is bigger than the renaming of Kazakhstan’s capital after that country’s former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, which made headlines around the world.

Most of the coverage, mocking or otherwise, suggests that Mr Bastrykin doesn’t know how to zoom in on computer images, or even enlarge them.

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The magnifying glass set off a variety of Sherlock Holmes memes

The large magnifying glass in the hand of a detective was a gift to satirists in a country with a long-standing love of Sherlock Holmes, and a deerstalker was frequently photoshopped onto the unfortunate chief investigator’s head.

‘Dangerous rays’

A popular meme involved inserting key words that Mr Bastrykin might be searching for, ranging from “corruption in Russia”, through “you, at a protest meeting”, to “a garage, not too expensive”.

Some members of the public think the moment also makes a broader point about the competence of the government.

“He’s neutralising the dangerous rays from that foreign electronic calculator. And this Doctor of Law has been running the Investigative Committee since 2011,” sighed one Twitter user.

“What’s the big deal… do you still expect people who can’t use zoom on a computer to lead us to a radiant future?” asked another.

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The Investigative Committee eventually came up with an explanation for their boss’s use of the magnifying glass.

It told that this traditional detective tool was “sometimes better at revealing details on images than the digital zoom, as enlarged pixels can cause significant distortion”.

It added that Mr Bastrykin is “always attentive to details that might prove to be of cardinal importance in establishing the truth of a criminal case,”

But the explanation failed to impress much of the media.

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One suggestion for a new Investigative Committee lapel badge

They were quick to quote optical expert opinion that a magnifier would also only show enlarged pixels, not a sharper image.

In the meantime, the Meduza news site did some investigating of its own, and came up with a simpler explanation.

“Mr Bastrykin wears spectacles while studying documents, and takes them off to look at the screen,” it says, illustrating its story with an official clip of the chief investigator doing just that.

‘Pair of bloodhounds’

“Opticians advise you to use a magnifier rather than your own glasses to examine small print, for example, so it’s most likely that Mr Bastrykin just finds that more convenient.”

At least the satirical “From Russia with Love” spot on the UTV channel approves.

“So you see, sometimes the good old ways are better than new-fangled technology! If only he had a pair of bloodhounds, the case would have been cracked ages ago,” it concludes.

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The mystery is solved

Reporting by Damien Sharkov and Martin Morgan

Next story: ‘Obscene’ beer label causes row in Russia

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