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Irritable Putin Offers Reporter Circumcision

Published: November 15, 2002 (Issue # 820)

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin's diatribe against radical Islam at a press conference in Brussels ended in embarassment when he rounded out his reply to a French reporter with a crude joke, inviting anyone wishing to be circumcised to come to Moscow, where the operation would be done in such a way as to make sure that "nothing grows back."

The scandalous comment, made late Monday, was immediately picked up by non-state Russian media but elicited a delayed reaction in the West due to translation problems.

In response to a Le Monde reporter, who questioned Russia's use of anti-personnel land mines and fragmentation bombs in Chechnya, Putin began, rather calmly, by saying that Chechnya was a "complex conglomeration of problems." He reiterated that the separatist movement in the republic was overtaken by radical Muslims and terrorists who filled the vacuum of power.

"No one can accuse Russia of suppressing freedom," Putin said. "Russia de facto gave full independence to the Chechen republic [in 1996]. In 1999, we had to pay for it. Wide-scale aggression against Russia, in the republic of Dagestan, took place under the slogan of creating a caliphate [Muslim theocracy] ... by tearing apart territories of the Russian Federation. What does that have to do with Chechnya's independence?"

People who inspire and finance Chechen fighters are "religious extremists and international terrorists," he continued. But Russia is only the first line of defense, he said, because "the radicals" have wide ambitions and "speak about the creation of a global caliphate."

As he became increasingly impassioned, he began to go through the categories of all those who are under threat from radical Muslims.

"They speak about the necessity to kill Americans and their allies. I think you come from a country that happens to be an ally of the United States - you are in danger," Putin said in addressing the French reporter.

"They are talking about the need to kill all kafirs [infidels], all non-Muslims, or Crusaders, as they say. If you are a Christian, you are in danger!"

"But if you decide to reject your faith and become an atheist, you are also subject to liquidation according to their way of thinking. ... You are in danger!"

"If you decide to become a Muslim, even that won't save you. Because they consider traditional Islam also to be hostile to the goals they advocate. Even in that case you are in danger!"

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Friday, Oct. 24

SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.

Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).

Saturday, Oct. 25

AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at

Sunday, Oct. 26

Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.

Monday, Oct. 27

Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).

Tuesday, Oct. 28

The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.

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