MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian investigators said on Tuesday (Dec 27) they were looking into a disturbing video of a bear being crushed to death by a group of men riding in off-road vehicles over Siberian tundra.
In the video, apparently shot by one of the assailants, two trucks normally used by Russian oil and mining workers in off-road conditions repeatedly drive over a brown bear sitting in the snow.
Investigators in Russia's Yakutia region, which spans the Siberian Arctic, said they were examining the incident to determine whether it constitutes an animal cruelty criminal offence.
In the clip, which went viral on Tuesday and was picked up by state media, one of the men in the truck shouts "Squash him! Squash him!" and squeals as the vehicle runs over the bear.
After driving the truck back and forth over the animal, which attempts to get up, the men can be heard saying "It's still alive", and poke it with a metal rod.
"Currently we have established that the video shows local (Yakutia) residents," Interior Ministry spokesman Irina Volk said in televised remarks.
"We will strive for the most serious punishment for these scoundrels," Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sergei Donskoi wrote on his official Facebook page, calling the incident a "carnage".
"Such crimes should be followed by real prison terms!"
Bears that fail to go into hibernation for winter can be dangerous and are often shot with the sanction of the authorities if found in proximity to towns or villages.
Russia's abundant wildlife regularly comes in conflict with workers developing remote territories like the Arctic.
Last year a video that showed a construction worker at an Arctic military base feeding a firecracker to a polar bear, which roared with pain after it exploded in its mouth, sparked widespread indignation.