Russian police have arrested a man suspected in a serial pedophilia case. The suspect allegedly sexually harassed hundreds of young girls using the Skype video chat program.
Dmitry Zhidkov, a 29-year-old paramedic, has partially confessed the charges, saying he was in contact with one girl through Skype. However, he insisted that the sexually explicit and pornographic video chat was consensual.
An investigation revealed that on May 11, Zhidkov called an 10-year-old girl on Skype and sexually harassed her during their video conversation by asking her to undress and persuading her to masturbate in front of the camera.
The girl eventually confessed to her mother, who reported the incident to the police. Investigators began searching the social network Zhidkov used to contact the victim, and soon found him.
After Zhidkov’s arrest, police seized his laptop, which contained contact information for some 450 girls across Russia, all between 8 and 13 years old.
According to the investigation, Zhidkov found his victims through Russian social network Vkontakte and started conversations with them using a fake female identity. After establishing contact, he offered a photoshoot for a fashion magazine for which he asked girls to undress.
The suspect recorded his victims undressing and then blackmailed them, threatening to distribute the video among their friends and classmates unless they fully undressed and masturbated for him, police said.
Zhidkov’s most obedient victims received some monetary payment from him, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported, but it is unclear how that money was transferred.
The arrest and sexual harassment charges came as a shock for Zhidkov’s family, who described him as a family man and a caring father of two. Although divorced from his wife, Zhidkov reportedly maintained a good relationship with her and often visited his two children.
His ex-wife Irina flatly denied the allegations: “Relatives haven’t seen anything, because the computer was seized. But nobody believes this,” she said. “Our son Danila is 10 tomorrow. He waits for his father with a present, and the daughter is crying all the time and wants to see him.”
Zhidkov’s family has hired a lawyer to work on release.
This is not the first case of child sexual harassment involving Skype, but the first case of such scale in Russia. A year ago, Moscow police arrested a man who dialed random phone numbers and, if a child picked up the phone, proposed that they call each other on Skype; during the conversation, he showed his genitals to his victims.