MOSCOW — News that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston bombing suspect still at large, is of Chechen origin, has sparked Russia media interest in the breaking story out of the U.S., with news reports offering conflicting views of the 19-year-old. Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, are believed to have planted the homemade bombs that exploded during the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three people and injuring around 170. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed by police early Friday morning after a chase following the fatal shooting of a campus police officer.
Speaking from Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian republic of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya, Anzor Tsarnaev, the suspects’ father, described his 19-year-old son as “an accomplished medical student” and “a true angel”. But Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, disowned the brothers. Speaking through his press spokesman, Alvi Karimov, Kadyrov told Russian news agency Interfax that the Tsarnaev brothers no longer had any connection with Chechnya.
“If they were ‘bad guys’ that is question for those who brought them up,” Karimov said, suggesting that Kadyrov wished to distance the Russian republic from the suspected bombers.
Various media reports in Russia say the brothers were “known to police,” though what exactly that means is unclear since the Tsarnaev brothers are believed to have left Dagestan for the United States in 2002, when the pair were too young to have criminal records.
A college friend of Dzhokhar, speaking on Kremlin-backed television channel Russia Today, called the suspect “sociable and funny.”
“We used to study together in U.Mass Dartmouth in 2011,” he told RT. “The last time we were in touch was a year ago. Then I left for a different school and since then we have not been in touch. I don’t believe he can be involved in the Boston Marathon bombing.”
RT said that social networking site Vkontakte (In Contact) — a Russian version of Facebook — had a page with the name Dzhokhar Tsarnaev listed as living in Boston and studying at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School. RT said the school’s website named a Tsarnaev as its athlete of the month in February 2012. The Vkontakte page shows a photograph of Tsarnaev similar to that published in news reports worldwide; gives his birthday as July 22 and states that he speaks English and Russian.
The most recent posting in March 2012 appears to be a homemade YouTube video clip that shows a young man of Caucasian appearance sitting in the front seat of a car fooling around, doing impressions, apparently, of different ethnic types from the Caucasus, including Georgians. At one point the young man, who wears a baseball cap and speaks Russian and other languages, brandished what appears to be a penknife with an extended blade.
A comment on the Vkontakte page above the video posting, is a Russian phrase, “sil’no zamutil bratishka,” rendered phonetically in English, which translates as, “You’re making too big a fuss, bro.”