Mike Zaltsman, a Russian-American Jewish businessman, has been imprisoned for seven months so far for breaking a window, according to JPNews. The incident was the result of a dispute over office space he rented from Russian tycoon Andrei Gorodilov whose business partner is Roman Abramovich, owner of the Chelsea football team. He was pressured to break the lease, and when talks broke down Gorodilov reportedly sent 30 men to destroy Zaltsman’s office furniture. He says they stole $20, 000 worth of office equipment.
Zaltsman, who owns the Black Storm football team in Russia, and attempted to lure NFL player Tim Tebow for $1 million a game, decided to retaliate. As reported by JPNews, one of his players, Kyle Israel, told him to let it rest, “Once Mike has his mind made up about something, he is going to do what he believes he needs to do to make it come to fruition.”
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When Gorodilov’s men raided the office, Zaltsman stood outside and shouted that he was from the SOBR special forces and they should evacuate immediately (Zaltsman speaks perfect Russian, because he grew up in the country before leaving to America at the age of 19). As one of the raiders were leaving, he threw a chair and broke the window, according to Zaltsman.
Zaltsman was accused of breaking the window and was charged with hooliganism. Gorodilov also said he didn’t pay his rent, an accusation Zaltsman denies. Since then, he has been confined in a jail cell with 15 other prisoners. There is barely room to lie down, no sign of a trial in the near or distant future, and there is no light. He says, “Almost no sky or sun can be seen here. I’m forgetting how it looks.”
Zaltsman’s story marks a disturbing trend that is reminiscent of Cold War era persecution in Russia. There is an increase in anti-American feeling since the U.S. boycotts in the country, and visitors and journalists have sometimes been detained, interrogated and jailed for trivial reasons.
Visit Help Free Mike Zaltsman and Dmitry Popkov on Facebook.