And they’re not the first to be victims to such a sneaky tactic: similar incidents have been happening since the beginning of the year, although previously it was a punishment usually only used for political opponents of Vladimir Putin.
A video published August 27 shows a taxi driver in the town of Khabarovsk, in far east Russia, forcing his customers to douse their faces and hands in “zelyonka”, a bright green dye sold in Russian pharmacies for less than a euro as a common antiseptic. The three customers weren’t able to pay 365 rubles [€5.30] for their ride, and so their driver decided to take revenge. Two of the three passengers, both young women, are filmed pouring the dye over their hands and then spreading it on their faces – although they obviously don’t want to. The taxi driver is in stitches as he gives them instructions and mocks them: “You’re going to be on YouTube today”.
According to online newspaper Gazeta.ru, local authorities have started to investigate the incident, even though none of the victims formally registered a complaint. The president of the local taxi drivers association said that the drivers were no longer working for their taxi company.
In February and March 2017, two other videos of a similar incident caused a buzz on social media: the first showed a taxi driver in Siberia aggressively smear zelyonka all over their customer’s face, and the second video, filmed in Omsk in the south of the country, showed three passengers forced to cover themselves with zelyonka before walking to their destination in the snow. Other cases were reported in 2014 in the region of Nizhny Novgorod, in the west of the country.
Before being used as a form of punishment by sadistic taxi drivers, zelyonka has been used in Russia and Ukraine to mark political opponents and journalists since 2010. Since 2008, there have been 36 zelyonka attacks in the two countries, according to Wikipedia.
Alexeï Navalny is the most famous example of a political opponent to current president Vladimir Putin who was subject to a zelyonka attack. He had to have an operation in Spain in order to recover vision in his right eye after being attacked with the substance.