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Home News Stories Coronavirus: Influencer sparks fears after hugging Siberian hermit

Coronavirus: Influencer sparks fears after hugging Siberian hermit

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A glamorous social media influencer has sparked outrage by chartering a helicopter to visit a hermit who has lived outside civilisation in Siberia all her life – putting her at risk of coronavirus or another modern infection.

Agafya Lykova, 76, lives as if she was an 18th-Century peasant in the Siberian wilderness, in Russia, 150 miles from the nearest small town.

A Russian icon, she is the last survivor of a family who in 1936 fled into the forest where she was born, to avoid religious persecution under Stalin.

They remained undetected by the Soviet authorities for more than 40 years until their remote homestead – where Agafya still lives – was spotted from the air by Soviet geologists.

Huge efforts are nowadays made by Russian officials who occasionally visit her to ensure that they do not pass modern-day diseases to a woman who has had minimal contact with ‘civilisation’.

But controversial travel blogger Arina Shumakova is accused of flouting safety measures and flying in with her team by helicopter to ‘hug’ Agafya.

Glamorous social media influencer Arina Shumakova has sparked outrage by chartering a helicopter to visit Agafya Lykova, 76, a hermit who has lived outside civilisation in Siberia all her life - putting her at risk of coronavirus or another modern infection

Glamorous social media influencer Arina Shumakova has sparked outrage by chartering a helicopter to visit Agafya Lykova, 76, a hermit who has lived outside civilisation in Siberia all her life – putting her at risk of coronavirus or another modern infection

She now faces legal action over her ‘unauthorised’ jaunt into the Siberian outback.

‘They simply ignored all the legal requirements and visited,’ said a spokesman for the nature reserve in remote Khakassia where she lives in the tumbledown shack built by her father despite winter temperatures as low as minus 45C.

‘We asked the blogger to provide negative COVID-19 tests.’

The social media star with two million followers did not do so and also failed to wear PPE.

‘We are now very worried for Agafya,’ said the spokesman.

Her father and brothers died after they were found and visited in their remote forest in 1978 – three decades after fleeing Stalin’s repressions.

Ms Shumakova is accused of flouting safety measures and flying in with her team by helicopter to 'hug' Agafya

Shumakova pictured on Instagram

Shumakova is accused of flouting safety measures and flying in with her team by helicopter to ‘hug’ Agafya

She shared a video of her flying in the helicopter before she was seen meeting Agafya

She shared a video of her flying in the helicopter before she was seen meeting Agafya

It is believed their lack of immunity to modern diseases was a key factor.

Director of Khakassky Nature Reserve Viktor Nepomnyashchy said she flouted ‘moral, ethical and theological’ norms.

They flouted warnings and ‘grossly violated the flight rules, failed to use personal protective equipment, and shot videos and photos without a permit.’

A lawsuit has been filed against the blogger and her pilot.

A Russian icon, Agafya she is the last survivor of a family who in 1936 fled into the forest where she was born, to avoid religious persecution under Stalin. Pictured: The woman with her father Karl (left) and Krasnoyarsk professor Igor Nazarov

A Russian icon, Agafya she is the last survivor of a family who in 1936 fled into the forest where she was born, to avoid religious persecution under Stalin. Pictured: The woman with her father Karl (left) and Krasnoyarsk professor Igor Nazarov

They remained undetected by the Soviet authorities for more than 40 years until their remote homestead - where Agafya still lives - was spotted from the air by Soviet geologists. Pictured: Agafya during the visit by Shumakova

 They remained undetected by the Soviet authorities for more than 40 years until their remote homestead – where Agafya still lives – was spotted from the air by Soviet geologists. Pictured: Agafya during the visit by Shumakova

Huge efforts are nowadays made by Russian officials who occasionally visit her to ensure that they do not pass modern-day diseases to a woman who has had minimal contact with 'civilisation'

Agafya during the visit by Shumakova

 Huge efforts are nowadays made by Russian officials who occasionally visit her to ensure that they do not pass modern-day diseases to a woman who has had minimal contact with ‘civilisation’

But Shumakova, 41, claimed the hermit was happy to see her.

‘The pilot strictly prohibited us even to touch Agafya,’ she said.

‘But when we were leaving, I told her: ‘Agafya, I want to give you a hug so much, but I was prohibited.’

‘And she told me: “We can hug, he (the pilot) can’t see!”

A lawsuit has been filed against the blogger and her pilot for visiting Agafya. Pictured: The hermit in an older photo with someone sent by the region's governor to check on her

A lawsuit has been filed against the blogger and her pilot for visiting Agafya. Pictured: The hermit in an older photo with someone sent by the region’s governor to check on her 

Shumakova, 41, claimed the hermit was happy to see her. 'The pilot strictly prohibited us even to touch Agafya,' she said. 'But when we were leaving, I told her: 'Agafya, I want to give you a hug so much, but I was prohibited. And she told me: "We can hug, he (the pilot) can't see!''

Shumakova, 41, claimed the hermit was happy to see her. ‘The pilot strictly prohibited us even to touch Agafya,’ she said. ‘But when we were leaving, I told her: ‘Agafya, I want to give you a hug so much, but I was prohibited. And she told me: “We can hug, he (the pilot) can’t see!”

The vlogger had been warned that Agafya might be upset and refuse to talk. Pictured: Agafya in an older photo taken several years ago

 The vlogger had been warned that Agafya might be upset and refuse to talk. Pictured: Agafya in an older photo taken several years ago

She said: ‘I want to scream that I have seen Agafya with my own eyes….

‘This is some sort of a dream.’

She had been warned that Agafya might be upset and refuse to talk.

‘She followed her heart and she felt that I came in peace.’

Shumakova has been involved in controversy previously after she claimed to be raising funds for children with cancer but allegedly not specify how the money was spent.

Once a modern languages teacher, she became famous when she blogged about losing 40 kg with a special diet.

Agafya’s encounter with the vlogger comes four years after she fell ill and needed a helicopter to fly her to hospital.   

Agafya's encounter with the vlogger comes four years after she fell ill and needed a helicopter to fly her to hospital

Agafya’s encounter with the vlogger comes four years after she fell ill and needed a helicopter to fly her to hospital

She was airlifted to Kemerovo, an industrial city in Oblast, after developing a horrible pain in her leg caused by the bitter cold.

She arrived at Tashtagol Hospital carrying fresh water from the spring that runs by her cabin and clutching her many religious icons.

One source told local media: ‘She feels better. The doctors managed to control the pain. She is expected to stay at the hospital for examinations and more treatment for a week.’ 

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