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The Russian YouTube star and the anime Nazi

BBC News BBC News 17/04/2016 By BBC Trending

A Russian YouTuber has written a viral protest song in support of one of her fans. Why? The fan was summoned for questioning by the police after sharing a picture of her standing next to an anime character wearing a swastika armband.

Wait. What?

Yes, this one's weird. In short, it's a story about the way social media is being policed in Russia, and a teenage singer who's fighting back.

The singer goes by the name of Monetochka - or Little Coin - on YouTube. She's 17, lives in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, and has picked up a pretty decent following by singing about everything from fashion to literature and politics.

Back in January, a song appeared on an obscure YouTube channel called Tru RAP, in which two Russian rappers - Vitya SD and Zamay - sample one of Monetochka's songs. In the video a string of photo collages appear. It isn't clear who created them, but that's where the weird image first appeared. It's a handful of different pictures stitched together, and includes Monetochka holding a bottle of water, a kebab shop, a Chinese flag, Ian Curtis, a Russian flag, and a Japanese anime cartoon character dressed as a Nazi soldier wearing (and this is the bit you need to remember) a swastika armband.

We did warn you it was weird.

So is there any meaning hiding in the image?

Well, apparently not. It seems to be absurd just for the sake of it. Monetochka found it amusing and shared it on her VKontakte page. "The idea was probably just to throw it in all together - kebab stalls, my face, anime, a swastika ... all together, in an abstract way. I did not pay particular attention to the swastika and I posted it," she tells BBC Trending.

A fan of hers thought the same. Semyon Kochkin - who is also a campaigner for PARNAS, a Russian opposition party - reposted the video on his own VKontacte page.

Now Kochkin has been summoned for questioning by the police, accused of the "public display of Nazi symbols," which is outlawed in Russia. So far he hasn't been charged, but could face up to 15 days in jail. Monetochka, meanwhile, has not been contacted.

Now Monetochka has penned a song about Kochkin's plight, and uploaded a new video to YouTube which has picked up more than 40,000 views. It's a protest song called The Ace of Trumps, and is sung in the voice of a prison inmate, warning internet users about the risks of publishing things on social media.

The song ends with a critical remark about Russia's regime: "Longing to break free? Well, you're not the first one... But do you understand that outside this iron door is another kind of prison." It's in a "prison chanson" style - a type of traditional Russian song about prison life that's very popular in the country.

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"If the government shuts down the internet, or destroys its anonymity... if it takes away the opportunity for people to express opinions, they will still find a way to do these things because they need to. So I'm not happy about the current trend," Monetochka says.

She alleges that the authorities targeted Kochkin because of his political activism, and that the swastika in this case is "just an excuse". We have asked the police for a comment, but not yet received a response.

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