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Molotovs and Death Threats: Russian Debt Collectors Go Medieval

“They are almost willing to kill, or at least threaten.”
Inside a debtor’s building, the warning on the wall reads “Apartment 146 Debtor.”

Inside a debtor’s building, the warning on the wall reads “Apartment 146 Debtor.”

Source: Vzsar

On the night of Jan. 27, a Molotov cocktail crashed through the window of a house in the central Russian city of Ulyanovsk, badly burning a toddler. Prosecutors charged a 44-year-old man with the firebombing, saying he had threatened the child’s grandfather over past-due payments on a 4,000-ruble ($51) loan. The accused, a former police officer, has denied the charges.

As Russia’s economy falters, its citizens are sinking deeper into debt—and bill collectors are going after them with vehemence. In recent months, collection agents have been charged with assaulting debtors, vandalizing their cars, even destroying baby carriages parked outside apartments. A kindergarten in southern Russia was evacuated in December after a caller threatened to attack the building unless an employee paid a debt owed by her husband. In another case, Anton and Anna Byskup, who live in Novosibirsk, say that unidentified collectors in January sent e-mails to their friends and relatives with a fake obituary of their baby daughter and put Anna’s photo and telephone number on a website advertising prostitutes’ services. The couple say they fell behind on repaying a short-term 15,000-ruble loan from a high-interest payday lender. “I was shaking, I had a nervous breakdown,” Anna said in a TV interview.