MOSCOW — A nanny accused of decapitating a 4-year-old girl in her care and brandishing the severed head at a Moscow metro station has said that she was avenging the deaths of Muslims in Russia’s campaign in Syria.
In a video that appeared on YouTube and quickly circulated through social media on Thursday, Gulchekhra Bobokulova, a 38-year-old native of the mostly Muslim nation of Uzbekistan, told an unidentified interviewer she had “taken revenge against those who themselves spilled blood,” specifically citing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin spilled blood, the planes were bombing,” she said in the video, wearing the same blue pinafore and striped track suit she had on during a court hearing on Wednesday. “Why are Muslims being killed? They also want to live.”
The source of the video was not clear and its authenticity could not be confirmed, although the location matched the setting of a short interview with Bobokulova published Wednesday on the pro-Kremlin tabloid LifeNews.
Russian newspapers and other media outlets have offered several possible motives for the grisly crime since Bobokulova, dressed entirely in black, roamed near a bustling metro station for at least 20 minutes on Monday holding the bloodied head by the hair as horrified police officers and commuters looked on.
Prosecutors believe she had killed the child and set fire to the apartment of the parents before police stopped her at the metro station for a passport check. She then produced the head from a bag she was carrying and, according to some media reports, threatened to detonate an explosive device. Police apparently backed off because of the threat but later said she was not carrying any explosives.
State television channels did not immediately cover the incident in their nationally broadcast news programs.
Although Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the news media that reports of the crime were too horrendous to show on television, others suspect that the Kremlin was seeking to prevent a backlash against Muslims — more than 2 million live in Moscow — or stir questions about whether the military intervention in Syria has made Russia a greater target for terrorism.
Asked about Bobokulova’s comments on Putin in the video interview, Peskov said Thursday that “any words said by such an insane woman should be treated accordingly.”
Earlier, he rejected speculation that the crime was motivated by ethnic hatred, saying, “Moscow is a huge metropolis. It is multinational and multi-faith, and the crime should not be linked with the nationality issue.”
The incident spurred outrage among some nationalist leaders, who for years have demanded stricter control of migrant workers in Russia. But it also found traction in the far more mainstream Communist Party, which shortly after the incident published an illustration featuring a woman in full Islamic covering carrying a bloody head. The post demanded a visa regime for the majority-Muslim, former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
A makeshift memorial of flowers, teddy bears and chocolates appeared at the entrance to the subway station where Bobokulova was arrested.
The mass-circulation Moskovsky Komsomolets daily cited Uzbek police as saying that the woman has been suffering from schizophrenia for more than a decade. In the video interview posted by LifeNews, Bobokulova said she had recently broken up with her partner of 12 years in Uzbekistan after he began living with another woman.
Bobokulova pleaded guilty at a courtroom hearing on Wednesday and, smiling, waved to reporters in the courtroom. News reports said she told journalists on the way into the courtroom that “Allah had ordered” her to kill the child.
In the video on Thursday, Bobokulova said she had wanted to move to Syria but did not have enough money. The unidentified interviewer repeatedly asked her whether she wanted to join the Islamic State or move to Raqqa, the militant group’s de facto capital in Syria, but she said she did not know. “I just wanted to live there,” she said.