Actress Allegedly Blackmailed into Endorsing Putin

Chulpan Khamatova. Source: the TelegraphAs Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin dominates the Russian airwaves in the run-up to March 5 presidential elections, reports are surfacing that one popular actress has been blackmailed into filming a video endorsing him.

As the Telegraph reports:

Chulpan Khamatova, an actress who is also the head of the country’s most famous children’s charity, Podari Zhizn, or “Gift of Life,” appears in a video titled “Why I will Vote for Putin” that was released Tuesday.

“In our life there is nothing more important than children’s health. Vladimir Putin has never once remained indifferent to the requests of Gift of Life and the doctors it supports,” she says in the short clip.

The video caused immediate consternation amongst opposition figures who found it impossible to believe that the respected actress and philanthropist would back the prime minister of her own free will.

A Russian news website, reported Wednesday that Khamatova, best known in the West for her role in the 2003 film Good Bye Lenin!, had been blackmailed into making the video.

“Yes, she was forced, she was threatened,” an anonymous source working at the charity told “Not her personally, but children were threatened. They threatened to cut off oxygen to the fund, to cut off financing.”

Sergei Parkhomenko, an anti-Putin activist, told the BBC Russian service that he had information that Khamatova was given an ultimatum.

Pro-government commentators claimed the actress was simply exercising her right to free speech.

Khamatova, who joined Putin on campaign-stop tour of a children’s hospital this week, refused to comment on the furore Thursday.

Spokesmen for Putin, who is hoping to win reelection to the Kremlin in presidential elections on March 4, have called the allegations “nonsense.”

“It’s insanity… it’s not true,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Izvestia newspaper.