MOSCOW Russian investigators said on Wednesday they had opened a criminal case into a group of men who filmed themselves crushing a bear to death by repeatedly driving over it in off-road vehicles in the Siberian tundra.
A video posted on YouTube on Monday, apparently shot on a mobile phone, showed men in two heavy trucks shouting "Crush him! Crush him!" and poking the bear as it struggled to rise from the snow.
The video, which has since been removed from YouTube, was widely circulated by Russian media and caused a public outcry.
Investigators in the Sakha Republic, in northeast Siberia, said they had opened a criminal investigation into the incident.
They said they were looking at whether the men were guilty of causing the death of an animal by treating it sadistically, a charge that carries a maximum jail term of two years.
The men caught on camera were shift workers driving vehicles that belonged to a exploration company prospecting for resources in the mineral-rich region, investigators said.
"There should be real jail time for this sort of crime!" Sergei Donskoi, Russia's minister for natural resources and the environment, wrote on social media.
"We'll make sure these villains get the most serious punishment."
(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Andrew Osborn)