Call it Russophobia or an urge to report a sensational story even without checking your facts. On Thursday, several Brazilian newspapers and channels reported that a “Russian diplomat has shot and killed a Brazilian who attempted to rob him near the Olympic village”. The so-called diplomat shot an assailant and left his body lying on the main avenue that connects the Olympic Park with the city centre. The body was lying on the road for five hours as athletes, officials and other people passing by looked in horror.
Soon, the story was picked by western papers, including The Guardian, and it was widely reported that a vice consul at the Russian consulate – grappled with an assailant who tried to carjack his vehicle, believed to be a BMW X6.
In their hurry to report the story, most newspapers forgot to realise that a Brazilian was high unlikely to be employed as a vice consul with the Russian government. Even as the story was being widely reported, sources in the Russian consulate told this reporter that the person involved in the shooting of the robber was neither a Russian nor a diplomat.
Even after the Russian Consulate in Rio issued a statement denying media reports that one of its diplomats shot a robber using the attacker’s own gun in the middle of the street in Rio de Janeiro, the story remained in circulation.
It was only later in the evening that it emerged that the shooter was not a Russian diplomat and had used pretended to be so to get away from the site of shooting. Using false documents and cards, the shooter managed to get away from the scene. But he was caught by the police late in the evening.