Nick Ralston – Crime Editor
The Sydney Morning Herald – March 24, 2016
It is one way to get noticed – fronting up to a Sydney courthouse dressed in military uniforms saying you’ve brought a message from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
So on Thursday four members of Sydney’s Cossack community, dressed in military garb went to Burwood Local Court to confront a man accused of destroying 50 Orthodox Christian graves at Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery.
It was a move, the Russian nationalists said, to show their community is strong and they won’t tolerate such cowardly acts.
“We want to make our presence here clear, our community doesn’t tolerate this,” one of the men, dressed in green fatigues with Russian military patches. “We want people to understand that the Russian community is a strong community and we won’t have our heads in the sand.”
Muhammad Ibrahim, is one of two accused of causing up to $500,000 worth of damage to the graves in November last year. The four men confronted Mr Ibrahim on his way into court, where he pleaded not guilty, and then again as he left.
The four chased Mr Ibrahim down the street telling him he was “a coward”, to “fight the living not the dead” and that “Putin says hello”.
There was a small amount of pushing, shoving and shouting but Mr Ibrahim managed to get away largely without incident.
“We are very pleased that police made arrests because in previous times no arrests were made,” the Cossack group’s spokesman said.
“If anybody out there is ever thinking of vandalising our graves, Russian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, this is a stern warning: do not vandalise them.
“It’s a very cowardly act, come and talk to us if you have a problem, but don’t vandalise our graves.”
Police allege that they stopped Mr Ibrahim and another man, aged 23, as they were leaving the cemetery having damaged more than 50 grave sites.
When officers searched the vehicle the pair were in, they also allegedly found illicit drugs.
Mr Ibrahim will return to Burwood Local Court later this year.