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U.S.-Russian Child Porn Operation Nets 9

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WASHINGTON — U.S. authorities said they have broken up an Internet child pornography ring based in Russia and arrested nine people in a joint operation with Moscow police.

The U.S. Customs Service announced Monday that four Americans and five Russians were arrested following a yearlong investigation into the sale of explicit child pornography videos over the Internet, mainly to Americans, from a web site called Blue Orchid run from a Moscow apartment.

The United States is conducting more than 20 separate investigations for child porn distribution and manufacturing as a result of Operation Blue Orchid and officials expect to make many more arrests, according to Dennis Murphy, an assistant U.S. Customs Service commissioner.

"You'll be hearing about arrests and indictments in Blue Orchid for the next two years," he said. Investigations are also underway in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Russian police made the first arrests in December when they took Sergei Garbko and Vsevolod Solntsev-Elbe into custody on suspicion of operating the Blue Orchid web site, the U.S. Customs Service said.

Moscow and U.S. Customs officials have since arrested three more people in Russia and four others in the United States.

Viktor Razumov, who was arrested earlier this month, made a tape called "Thief's Punishment," which Solntsev-Elbe sold on the Blue Orchid web site.

In the film, Razumov and another man appear to rape a 15-year-old boy, who is seen weeping and pleading for them to stop. If convicted, Razumov would face up to 10 years in prison.

But there is a catch. Prosecutors must prove that the rape is genuine and not merely acted out on film. For that, the boy must testify. But the man who is shown holding him down while Razumov apparently raped him was none other than the boy's own brother, now serving a separate seven-year sentence in Siberia for murder.

If the boy does not testify against his own brother, there was no rape. If there was no rape, and the boy is 15, there was no crime. The brother was charged in the pornography case and the video cameraman was arrested, but he later killed himself.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher cited additional arrests in Europe, but gave no details. He said U.S. authorities executed 15 search warrants in the United States.

He said the State Department had freed up $100,000 to help Moscow city police beef up enforcement actions against child pornography on the Internet, including training at a U.S. Customs "cybersmuggling" center.

The initial Russian arrests led U.S. Customs officials to the Portage, Indiana, home of Glenn Martikean, who was indicted last Friday on six federal counts of trading in pornography and traveling with the intent of having sex with minors.

The Blue Orchid site operated from March to December last year and sold several hundred videos to at least 80 customers worldwide, Customs officials said.

The films, which sold for $200 to $300 per video, featured sexual abuse of young Russian boys. The group had begun making child porn films to order and charging $5,000 per video, Delli-Colli said.

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