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Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Sunday Funnies

From The "You Can't Make this Stuff Up!" Department

MOSCOW (The St. Petersburg Times) — Two Egyptian citizens face criminal charges in the Bryansk region for attempting to tunnel under the Russian border using a shoehorn, Interfax reported Wednesday. The Prosecutor General’s Office said Wednesday that the Egyptians, Mohammed Anwar el Maghriby Ali Kuram and Said Ali Taha Mohammed Hassan, hatched a plan in early July to cross the border illegally into Western Europe. They flew into Moscow on tourist visas, then made it to the Belarussian-Polish border by car and train. A statement from the Prosecutor General’s Office said the pair used a shoehorn to tunnel into Poland under a barbed-wire barrier along the border. “Once in Poland, the Egyptians lost their way, and assuming that the next barbed-wire fence they encountered was the border between Poland and Germany, they dug another tunnel using the same shoehorn,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, they wound up back in Belarus instead of Germany.” After a brief stay in the custody of Belarussian border police, the two men were put on a train to Moscow and told to report to the Egyptian Embassy. They got off the train in Smolensk instead, however, and made their way to the border town of Sevsk, where they were detained by border guards as they tried to burrow across the border into Ukraine. The two men are currently in jail awaiting trial in a Bryansk regional court. They have been charged with attempting to cross the Russian border illegally in an organized group. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

MOSCOW (The Moscow Times - Anna Malpas) Recently, I've been reading a series of very dull interviews in glossy magazines. The only interesting thing about them is that the subjects are all famous Russians, and somewhere in the second-to-last paragraph they all drop in a mention of the mobile phone operator Beeline. The people taking part -- tennis player Yelena Dementyeva and filmmaker Yegor Konchalovsky, among others -- talk to an unnamed interviewer in a Q&A format. Then there are just a couple of sentences where they talk about a convenient way to pay their phone bills. After that, it's back to their latest film, tennis match or whatever. These ads, which have run in Hello! and Seven Days magazines, aren't fooling anybody, since they stick out visually from the rest of the content. But at the same time, they probably leave the participants feeling like they haven't completely sold their souls to the almighty ruble. Konchalovsky takes the opportunity to name-drop at least five productions he's currently involved in. Other celebrities aren't as finicky about putting their faces to products. Film director Fyodor Bondarchuk may have made millions with the buddy drama "Company 9," but that doesn't mean he can't make a little extra cash plugging beer and vodka (separately, not as chasers). Meanwhile, the folksy playwright and actor Yevgeny Grishkovets shows off his Everyman credentials by advertising American Express with the slogan "Either you have it now, or you will." Some of the faces seem to fit the products better than others. One of the less successful combinations was television host Oksana Pushkina's performance for the inexpensive, Russian-made moisturizing cream Black Pearl. Not long afterward, she hit the headlines after suffering ill effects from a cosmetic surgery procedure. On that note, cosmetic surgery might seem like the ultimate no-no when it comes to celebrity endorsement. But Lyubov Polishchuk, an actress who starred in films back in Soviet times, used to have her photograph on ads for a clinic that appeared regularly in Seven Days. True, it seems they've stopped appearing recently, perhaps due to a tabloid story about her temporary paralysis after some terrifying procedure. Sometimes it's not the celebrity's face that's most important when it comes to casting ads. The dancer and stripper Tarzan, who is married to pop singer Natasha Korolyova, can be seen on posters in the metro advertising underpants. The more A-list Russian celebrities often choose to advertise watches, usually very expensive ones. The pop singer Alsu has been photographed wearing a slim Orient watch and the satisfied expression of someone whose daddy is a former vice president of LUKoil. Another singer, Zhanna Friske, is now advertising the same watchmaker in a photo shoot that reverses her usual principle of wearing more makeup than clothes. That's not to say humbler products can't have starry faces representing them. Nikolai Baskov, the favorite pop and opera singer of Russian housewives, recently appeared in a widely printed "news" story about his feelings of nausea after spending a whole day shooting a tea commercial soon to grace our screens. Of course, this vitally important story didn't forget to mention that he still liked the product in question. And a recent commercial featured the one-time goalkeeper for the Soviet soccer team, Rinat Dasayev, reminiscing about his glory days, only to find that his treasured sweat-stained shirt had been washed shiny and new by his housekeeper, using Ariel detergent. A journalist from Komsomolskaya Pravda called up Dasayev to ask whether the shirt used in the commercial was actually one he had played in. Not surprisingly, the answer was short and sharp.

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