Putin video row tarnishes ‘Russian Oscars’

2012-04-09 10:44

A row involving some of Russia’s biggest film stars tarnished a glitzy awards ceremony after the presenter accused an actress of making an election video for Vladimir Putin to protect her charitable fund.

The dispute took place at the prestigious annual Nika awards hosted by the Russian Academy of Cinema Arts, broadcast on state television late yesterday and seen as Russia’s equivalent to the US Oscars.

The row erupted as an award was given to Chulpan Khamatova, one of Russia’s best-loved actresses who leads a respected charity and controversially made a video endorsing Putin’s successful March 4 presidential election bid.

The host of the ceremony – the opposition-inclined television host Ksenia Sobchak – stunned the audience by openly asking Khamatova if she would have made the pro-Putin video if she had not had to worry about her charity.

Khamatova’s endorsement of the Russian strongman had unsettled some of her fans who saw the softly-spoken star as an unlikely cheerleader for Putin.

“Chulpan – you know how I bow before your talent and your human generosity and kindness and you are an astonishing person,” said Sobchak.

“It is because of this that here and now I want to ask you this. If you had not been involved in charitable work would you have supported Putin as a candidate or would you have stayed away from political activity?”

Her intervention prompted furious whistles from the audience and other actors to leap to the defence of Khamatova, whose charity is regarded with universal admiration in Russia for helping treat children with cancer.

“Why are you doing this?” fellow star actor Yevgeny Mironov, who was also on the stage after presenting an award, told Sobchak.

“It’s just a question. I admire you very much. You do enormous work, it is true,” an uncomfortable-looking Sobchak told Khamatova, who did not answer the question and said the ceremony was aimed at recognising artistic achievement.

Even the Kremlin’s chief economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich later waded into the scandal to attack Sobchak.

“The host’s job is to present the ceremony, isn’t it? Or does having a microphone on your hand give you a right to hooliganism?” he wrote on Twitter.

Putin’s campaign team wheeled out a succession of celebrities including Khamatova and conductor Valery Gergiev to take part in short campaign videos called “Why I am voting for Vladimir Putin”.

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