Abramovich didn’t buy his girlfriend an Italian restaurant

The oligarch’s press secretary denies rumors of acquiring the restaurant for $5.5 million

Italian newspapers were all over the latest sensation — Roman Abramovich bought his girlfriend, Darya Jukova, a restaurant opposite Castel Sant’Angelo in a charming corner of Rome on the shore of the Tiber. The purchase reportedly cost the oligarch $5.5 million.

Abramovich’s wealth is estimated at an astounding $24 billion with assets as varied as Millhouse Capital and the Chelsea Football Club. For the oligarch, buying such an establishment is about the same as the ordinary Joe purchasing a lighter at a convenience store. However, the billionaire’s press service denied the deal had gone through.

The purchase under question isn’t as curious as the fact that international media have pinned more and more whimsical buys on the oligarch as of late. Less than two weeks ago, the tabloid said Abramovich had spent $500 million on a villa on the French Riviera, which turned out to be untrue. It’s also unclear if the oligarch purchased a sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti ($15 million) and a painting by British master Lucian Freud ($33.6 million)…

Of course, Abramovich can afford almost anything. He’s so wealthy that Western journalists see him as the mastermind behind all hefty purchases made by foreigners abroad. If a Russian purchases anything over several million dollars — say no more, it was Abramovich. For Europe, all Russia’s oligarchs have merged into one face. And Abramovich has forced the Western world to learn his tough-to-pronounce last name by heart.

On the other hand, big boys like big toys, and Abramovich doesn’t like to go without them either. At the end of the day, though, it’s just one more restaurant, or one less castle…

Abramovich probably laughs while sipping his morning coffee, reading about the latest rumors that the international media have thought up.

Nikolay Gerasimov

At the Same Time

In a telephone conversation with KP, Julian Cafe Director Fabio Stortsi admitted that the deal had in fact been made.

“I confirm everything that’s being said about the restaurant’s purchase by the Italian press; 3.5 million euro ($5.5 million) was paid,” he said.

Stortsi stressed the purchase was “a kill” for the price — dining halls with 40 tables in a 17-Century building with the head chef, waiters and other kitchen staff. But the director avoided mentioning Abramovich or Jukovaya.

VIP pimps killed Russian model Ruslana in New York? Part Two

KP journalist traveled to New York to find out if Ruslana Korshunova’s death was suicide or murder

Why don’t the police think it’s murder?

All Ruslana’s friends and acquaintances say she didn’t have any enemies. They also describe her as a kind and caring person. Of course, people probably envied her as she had made a wonderful career for herself. But it’s unlikely she was killed as a result — especially in such a professional manner without leaving any evidence behind. Regardless, her mother and friends say a more detailed investigation must be conducted. Not all the pieces of the puzzle in the official version fit together.

Ruslana’s apartment rests behind a white door. Inside things are slightly disarranged. Her mother recently came and packed up everything that would remind her of her daughter. There is a plush Cheburashka on the sofa. The doors to the wardrobe are propped open and dresses are poking out.

Her balcony: A key piece of the puzzle

“Ruslana was afraid of heights,” said her ex-boyfriend Artem Perchenok. “She even smoked standing on the threshold to the balcony. But she’d never actually go outside. Look here.” He pointed to cigarette butts lying on the ground. “These are a man’s cigarettes. Ruslana only smoked thin, lady’s cigarettes. Why didn’t the police pay attention to this?”

To the right, I saw the fence between Ruslana’s balcony and the neighboring building that is under construction. Here is the hole that she allegedly climbed through onto the construction site, according to the police. I’m a man and it’s very difficult for me to climb through. It’s possible, but difficult physically (see photo). In addition, one actually has to jump from her balcony to the construction site. The distance is about one meter. One would have to have a real desire and reason to struggle through the fence and leap to the next building.

“I think it’s possible Ruslana was pulled over there and thrown off,” said Artem. “I can’t believe she just wanted to say goodbye when she came to see me the day before she died. Why didn’t the police interrogate me? They didn’t interrogate Mark either, Ruslana’s boyfriend, and he was the last person to speak with her!?”

I learned later how the New York Police Department is structured and why they decided straight off why Ruslana had committed suicide. First Ruslana wasn’t a U.S. citizen. Second the police weighed the evidence about a possible suicide and murder. They understood the case wouldn’t get far, so why should they start to begin with? I was bit upset by the news, but this is what I was told by people who were born in the U.S. and know the system. The myth about the wonderful U.S. police soon faded away.

Version 5: Criminal motives

Ruslana’s death in many ways look like a suicide. But who would want to kill her? Her ex-boyfriend Artem would be a suspect. Maybe he was jealous? But I saw the way he talked about her, and it’s clear he still loves her. He also has an alibi. He was at home with his parents the whole day. Another version is her last boyfriend Mark Kaminskiy killed her. He’s a rather closed person and has had problems with the police.

“I swear I saw copies of the police records,” said Ruslana’s close friend. He doubts the official version and has his own connections in the New York Police Department. “Kaminskiy’s ex-wife issued a restraining order against him in 2001. He was arrested for illegally possessing a firearm and marijuana in 2003 and 2005.”

Officially, the New York Police Department hasn’t confirmed the information.

Mark actively promotes his hardcore lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Given the circumstances, this leaves plenty of room for the imagination. Maybe Ruslana lent him money and then he couldn’t repay her? But the concierge says no one went to see Ruslana before she jumped off the building. And it’s impossible to enter through the backdoor unnoticed. The intruder would have to walk by the concierge either way.

Today Kaminskiy says he sells elite automobiles in Brooklyn. But none of the high-end dealers know him in this area of the city. And he refuses to speak with journalists.

“Komsomolskaya Pravda? If you print even one word about us we’ll sue!” said Mark’s friend. He’s unshaven with baggy pants. There are plenty of criminals that look just like him at the bazaars in Moscow. Mark is standing nearby. He looks shaken and is nervously smoking a cigarette. They came to Ruslana’s farewell ceremony in New York. Mark spits, turns around and walks away.

Version 6: Mafia?

“I know you’re investigating the story,” I heard after receiving an unexpected call from Moscow several days later. “Call me Maksim. I’ve been in the modelling business for a long time. And my wife is also a model. This is just to let you know that I know my way around the business.” I listened silently.

Maksym continued: “Kaminskiy is the right-hand man of Petr Listerman, a matchmaker who sets up wealthy men with models. Petr has a show on MUZ TV called ‘Beauties and the Beast.’ In one episode he and Kaminskiy went to Milan to find young models.”

“You think Ruslana may have fallen under the influence of these dubious characters?” I asked.

“I’m not saying anything,” Maksym said. “But here are some facts for you. Several years ago I held a casting session at a Moscow club. Kaminskiy stood in the doorway. Listernman called me that evening and demanded I give him one of the models who had gone to the club. He said we could make big money if we delivered her to the bed of an oligarch during his trip to Kurshevel. And there was real pressure — with threats and promises to earn unheard of cash.”

“You think this could have happened with Ruslana?” I asked.

“I’m not saying anything. But if some rich man paid for Ruslana, then Listerman would have been on her like a bulldog. They give a lot of money for that. I’d guess the starting price would be around one million dollars. Mark is a professional pimp. He’s the macho who works in the girls and does the pre-sale preparation.”

Version 7: Depression?

Now let’s think about how the events could have unfolded based on what we have learned about Kaminskiy.

Ruslana was a deeply generous, impressionable person — like a child.

“She would cry for any, even trivial reason,” Artem’s parents told me. “She took everything so personally.”

Not long before, Ruslana had broken up with Artem. And she couldn’t go to see his parents, who were like her second family, to cry on their shoulders. Remember, Ruslana wound up in the modelling business in New York at 15 years old with few friends and her mother in far-way Almaty.

Shortly after their break-up, Mark appeared. Could he have made her fall in love with him and then started pressuring her? She may have understood the real reason behind Kaminskiy’s courting before her death. Ruslana left a message on his Odnoklassniki.ru page that said: “You’re an animal. You scare me.” It’s clear something was going on.

That’s the only way I can explain why Ruslana went to see Artem the night before she died. She wanted to see her family and felt drawn to their warmth. Her break-up with Artem also seemed idiotic. She loved him, too.

A key piece of the puzzle is Mark’s call to Ruslana shortly before she committed suicide. It’s unclear what they talked about. Mark says they agreed to go to a party later that evening. But they could have talked about anything. Maybe he began pressuring her about offering sex services for big money? Why not? It’s obvious something shattered deep inside her after the conversation, and there was only one way to remedy the situation.

What condition do you have to be in to climb through a balcony and jump to a neighboring building despite a fear of heights? Maybe she was taking drugs? It’s feasible Mark could have gotten her on addicted. But Ruslana’s friends say she didn’t even drink. She couldn’t handle even small volumes a alcohol, they say. In that case, her weak physiology would have led to a seriously misconstrued perception of reality should she have taken drugs, said Moscow-based narcology expert Pavel Kuchuk.

But again this is just another a version. A complete analysis of Ruslana’s blood at the moment of her death will only be ready in mid-September. READ MORE

Seven versions of the top model’s death in New York. Part One

KP journalist traveled to New York to find out if Ruslana Korshunova’s death was suicide or murder

You probably want to know why we’re continuing on with this story. Just because an attractive, young girl died? Even as her relatives are coming to grips with what happened and wiping away their tears, deep down there are still many unanswered questions about Ruslana Korshunova’s death. What seemed like a perfect fairytale ended with unexpected tragedy. A Russian girl from Nowhere, Kazakhstan who made the cover of Vogue and charmed the world all the sudden ended up dead on a street in the most prestigious section of Manhattan. It’s a hard story to swallow.

Imagine. They say she didn’t drink or do drugs and was afraid of heights. On Saturday, June 28, four days before her 21st birthday, she planned on going to the sauna with her girlfriend and then to party with her boyfriend. But instead she cut a hole leading from her balcony to a neighboring building, climbed three stories, ran around and then jumped off to her death. She left no note. She left behind her mother who she always was concerned about. And she also had several bank accounts with large sums and a yearly contract with the the largest modelling agency in the world IMG.

Doesn’t this seem a bit strange?

Piecing together the events

We’re sitting in the backyard of a typical two-story house in New York smoking one cigarette after another. The sun is beating down on us and together with the tobacco it feels like we had spent the whole night drinking. Yesterday there was a long, crowded ceremony quietly bidding farewell to the top model.

“Absolutely no one believes that Ruslana could have done this,” said Eduard Perchenok, father of the model’s ex-boyfriend, 24-year-old Artem. The Perchenoks were like a second family to Ruslana. Artem courted her for sometime and she often slept at his parents house.

“There were no adults who were closer to her than us here in New York. We were something like her mother and father in the U.S.,” he added, turning red from the dry tears.

Let’s try to recount the events leading up to Ruslana’s death.

Eduard’s son dated Ruslana over two years. It was her only long-term relationship. The couple broke up sometime in 2007.

“This was really due to how Ruslana was brought up,” said Artem’s mother Nina. “Her mother was supposed to come visit from Almaty. The two lived together in an apartment. But Ruslana was a bit embarrassed because they were living together unmarried. So she asked Artem to move out.”

Then the troubles began. When Ruslana’s mother left, she decided to rent an apartment closer to work — in Manhattan, right in the middle of the modelling and economic heart of the world. This made things a bit more difficult for Artem. His company was in another section of the city and it was too hard to reach her apartment through all the traffic.

“They were anxious when everything started to fall apart,” said Artem’s father. “But there wasn’t any way back. Although they always called and wrote each other, they rarely met. So in short they remained friends.”

Ruslana soon enrolled in psychological classes in Moscow where she met the young teacher, Vladimir Vorobev. The two began dating each other. However, Vladimir turned out to be engaged and his fiancee was pregnant.

One month later, Ruslana met Mark Kaminskiy at a party in New York. The 32-year-old Kaminskiy sold high-end automobiles. Judging from the photographs he published on his Odnoklassniki.ru page, the two hit it off straight away. But strangely enough, Ruslana spent the whole night before her death with Artem.

“The kids watched movies, read love poems,” Artem’s father said. “My son had this tiny book Ruslana had given him once. They read the poems from there. Later he put the book in her coffin — and his cross.”

At 04:00 Artem took her home

At around midday, Mark called Ruslana to agree on when they would meet to go to a party that evening. At 12:19, Ruslana went onto her page on Odnoklassniki.ru, but didn’t write anything. About two hours later she was found dead on the street.

Facts and Guesses

In the days following the model’s death, the Web was abound with versions about what really happened. But they’re only theories. Now we can recount them all taking into consideration the comments we received from Ruslana’s friends and family, who saw her only shortly before her death (as well as people in the Russian scene abroad who are party to information about top models, pimps, drug dealers, athletes and the wealthy.)

Version 1: Ruslana was killed by the mafia that provides top model escort services to the rich.

American papers initially published this version of the story. Ruslana, they wrote, could have learned confidential information from a client and been murdered as a result.

It’s no secret that models “do it.”

“In New York, these escort services pay just as much as working the podium,” a popular New York designer said. “That’s anywhere from $5,000-$10,000. When a girl has no shows, a lot of them earn money this way. Basically so they have pocket cocaine money…”

“I think it’s unlikely Ruslana was involved in something like this,” said a renowned New York photographer. He had previously worked with IMG. “The reason why is Korshunova was brought here omitting the Moscow agencies. Her whole story was like straight out of a movie. Her friend convinced her to do a photo shoot for the cover of a local airline magazine. The magazine wound up in the hands of the director of a leading modelling agency who was just leaving Kazakhstan. And at 15, she was already in New York. Conjectures about a Moscow-New York mafia using girls as escorts is out of place in her case.”

Version 2: She killed herself because of money problems.

The news that Ruslana had money problems was spread by her short-term lover and teacher in Moscow Vorobev, who said she didn’t even have $500 to buy a ticket back to New York.

“That’s nonsense,” said Eduard Perchenok. “Believe me, she was fine in this regard. The apartment she was renting in New York wasn’t cheap. Ruslana had paid rent until the end of the year, something like $40,000.”

Ruslana’s friends in New York who helped her mother with documents said they saw her bank account statements and they had fairly large sums.

Version 3: She was killed for the $500,000 that she was loaned by the modelling agency.

Ruslana’s girlfriends in Kazakhstan told journalists this version. Her agent was stealing her money and she was about to file a lawsuit.

“She did have problems with her agent around one year ago,” said Perchenok. “And Ruslana asked us to help her out. We called her agent and handled the negotiations. But this had nothing to do with money. Ruslana simply wanted to change her agency, but they wouldn’t let her go. But then everything solved itself.”

The Daily News made an official inquiry and learned Kornushova hadn’t filed any lawsuits. READ MORE

His foster parents wanted to give Dima the world. But he died instead…


The foster father who left Dima in his car in the sweltering heat is undergoing therapy at a mental hospital

An American family adopted the two-year-old Dima Yakolev last March from the Pskovsk Regional Orphanage. The boy died when his father stopped by his office and left him in a parked car all day long.

It was boiling hot on the street. The temperature had reached 30 degrees Celsius and 55 degrees inside the vehicle. The child died and his foster father Mike Harrison wound up in the hospital after a heart attack. Harrison is managing director of the consulting firm, Project Solutions Group.

Dima had made a long journey from Russia’s Pechor Pskovsk region to the U.S. His new family lived in Herndon, Virginia outside Washington DC. First, it seemed that fate had dealt the boy a second chance. His biological mother had put him up for adoption immediately after his birth — even though she too was raised in an orphanage. Dima was moved straight from the labor ward to the Pskovsk Regional Orphanage for children with a damaged central nervous system.

“We received Dima in 2006 straight from the labor ward,” said Natalya Vishnevskaya, the head doctor at the orphanage. “His 18-year-old mother signed a refusal of the child and disappeared. It’s unclear where she is now. She is a mentally disabled, lonely young girl who was also raised in an orphanage.”

Dima’s parents could have been Russian, but the potential foster parents reconsidered due to problems with his health. The boy had a cardiac murmur. However, the condition isn’t severe. Doctors report the medical condition can be found in one of two babies during a detailed health check.

“The doctors discovered a heart murmur,” Vishnevskaya said. “And although the boy was sweet, it was likely this diagnose together with his background that frightened the Russian couple. But the Harrisons agreed to adopt Dima.”

The Harrisons entered Dima’s life in the spring. The 45-year-old mother Carol and 49-year-old father Michael arrived to Russia from the U.S. to pick up their bundle of joy. They gathered all the necessary documents and Dima flew to a new country, family and home. He also received a new name. The Russian “Dima” became the American “Chase.”

On that misfortune day, Michael’s father was supposed to take his child to the nursery. But he decided to stop by work. He left the boy locked in his car in the parking lot with his seat belt fastened. He parked the off-road vehicle beneath the windows of his office. Michael lost track of time, and his heart skipped a beat when a passerby noticed “something” in the car. When the vehicle was opened, Dima was no longer breathing. His father tried to resuscitate the child and someone called the police.

After the tragedy, Carol requested that no one interfere with their personal life and restricted herself to: “We’re mourning.”

Michael ended up in the hospital. He fell into shock and had a heart attack. He was transferred to a private mental hospital. He is charged with manslaughter and faces up to 10 years in prison.

“I had a very good impression of the pair. They were absolutely normal people who were ready to become parents and take care of their child,” Vishnevskaya said. “The boy was friendly, calm and good-natured. And he wasn’t capricious at all. He was almost completely healthy when he was adopted.”

How could a responsible adult who achieved such success have forgotten about his child? It’s also hard to believe that 376 children have suffered a similar death in the U.S. over the past 10 years.

Interestingly, the boy died Tuesday — one week ago. But news of the tragedy reached Russia only several days later. Employees of the Russian Embassy in the U.S. only learned what had happened from the papers. READ MORE

Bishop Hilarion of Vienna reflects on Chukotka’s Diomid, opening the doors to other faiths

In recent weeks, the word has spread about a possible schism in the Russian Orthodox Church organized by Bishop Diomid of Chukotka. Some refer to the bishop as a bomb threatening the unity of the Church or a fighter for a purer faith. Others call him an Orthodox ayatollah and provocateur. In late June, the Bishops Council of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate suspended Diomid from his episcopate.

We asked Bishop Hilarion of Vienna, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative branch in European international organizations to comment on the situation.

KP: Bishop, please explain why so much excitement is giving way right now due to the Chukotka letter published 1.5 years ago?

Bishop Hilarion of Vienna: There wasn’t only one letter. There were several open letters and appeals signed by Bishop Diomid and his clergy, as well as interviews and videos containing his appeals. So we’re talking about an enter series of public statements that are circulating on the Web and in other mass media. Bishop Diomid accuses the Russian Orthodox Church and all its higher clergy, including the Holy Patriarchy, of so-called “heretical ecumenism,” as well as other “digressions from the pure Orthodox faith.”

Q: Diomid backs his accusations with quotes from the holy fathers. I must admit I don’t know much about theology, like many of our readers. But I think any position needs to be supported by quotes from the Bible, Gospel, apostles and other theological works taken from their context and time frame. Just like Soviet literary critics flogged each other with quotes from Lenin…

A: I already had the occasion to talk about the materials signed by the bishop that are spreading on the Web and in anti-Church press. Both on their own and all together, they are provocative, aim to split the Church and plant mistrust in the hierarchy. These materials have been built on lies and disinformation. They target people who know little about the Church.

Q: What is ecumenism? Please explain for our readers.

A: The so-called ecumenical movement — a movement bringing together Christians of various confessions — has existed around 100 years. The Orthodox churches have participated in the movement since the late 1940s. But they refute the opinion of those protestants who believe there is a hidden international church and all orders (Catholics, the Orthodox, Protestants) are branches. The Russian Orthodox Church rebukes this “branch theory” outright. We believe the Orthodox Church is the only true church.

However, our conviction in the truth of the Orthodox Church doesn’t prevent the higher clergy from meeting with representatives from other Christian confessions. Of course, these meetings are held within the frameworks outlined by the Church canons. We aren’t allowed to worship together. This is prohibited by the canons. But we’re allowed to site together at a round table to discuss issues that worry us — for example, the demographic crisis.

Q: It would be strange and absurd if we only spoke with like-minded people — the Orthodox among themselves.

What would the Church’s mission be if it didn’t make contact with other confessions?

A: Sometimes they say: “The Orthodox faith needs no missionary work. The faith testifies to the truth by the fact it exists.”

This phrase gives peace of mind. But I think if the apostles had been inspired by such an ideology and sat behind closed doors at the Holy Cenacle, testifying to Christ’s existence by “the mere fact that he exists,” and not speaking with believers of other faiths, then Christianity wouldn’t have spread across the world.

We must testify to our beliefs everywhere we can, including with other Orthodox confessions.

Q: Return the lost sheep to the herd?

A: You could put it that way. But we don’t only need a dialogue with other Orthodox confessions; rather with all other believers. And they tell us to close the church doors to other Orthodox confessions and faiths. They say don’t let them in or you’ll break the cannons by praying with heretics.

Let’s remember the story of the baptizing of pagan Rus. Prince Vladimir sent his envoys to different countries so they would pick the true faith for the land.

Patriarch Constantinople who was wiser than other theologians of the day let the convoys into the temple even though they were pagans. The beauty of the service impressed them so strongly, they felt: “This is the truth. God is here.” After returning to Kiev, the messengers told the prince that “God is at the temple and speaks to the people.”

Let’s ask ourselves. What if they hadn’t let the envoys into the church as the Orthodox isolationists demand today? If the Patriarch had placed silently obeying the canons above missionary aims? The answer is simple. Rus wouldn’t have become Christian.

Q: Maybe there just aren’t any Catholics or Protestants in Chukotka…

Q: There are other places in Russia where only Orthodox live. Many of our bishops live in the West and they are always in close contact with representatives of other Christian confessions. We can’t ignore them and isolate ourselves.

Many among our parish are in “mixed marriages.” One of my parishioners in Vienna is married to an Englishman. She is Orthodox and he is a member of the Church of England. Their children are baptized and raised in the Orthodox manner. Some Sundays, the entire family comes to our church. The wife and children take communion and the husband prays. Other Sundays, they go to the English church located on the same street. The husband takes communion and the wife and children pray. What’s so bad about that? But if you adhere to Bishop Diomid’s ideology, then I should forbid them from doing this. He says it’s an infringement of the canons and “praying with heretics.” And generally speaking “marrying an Englishman is a sin and lechery.”

An Orthodox believer can enter another church that has sanctuaries esteemed by all Christians. The believer can also enter the church during the service. Thousands of pilgrims from Russia, Greece and other Orthodox countries go to the Catholic church in Bari everyday and pray to Saint Nikolay.

But joint services don’t take place. It’s prohibited by the Church canons.

Q: Why?

A: Joint service would create the illusion of unity between the Orthodox faith and Catholicism, or Orthodox faith and Protestantism. But this unity doesn’t exist. READ MORE

International referee officiates match drunk

A scandal ensued after a Belarus league match between Vitebsk and Naftan.

Renowned international referee Sergey Shmolik officiated the entire match drunk. By the ninetieth minute, he couldn’t leave the pitch on his own two feet. Vitebsk’s administrator escorted him off the field. All the while, Shmolik tried to slip loose from his grip. The referee officiated at Wembley for England’s victory over Luxemburg in 1999.

As Shmolik was dragged off the pitch, he waived to fans and received a loud round of applause.

On July 15, the Belarus Football Federation will decide how much Shmolik drank. It’s likely the referee’s 247th match in the league will be his last. A blood test taken at the stadium’s medical unit Shmolik had a blood-alcohol content of 2.6 — or about one glass of vodka.

Shmolik says he took painkillers after the match as his spine hurt and went to the medical unit on his own initiative. Experts said Shmolik did in fact have a spinal injury.

Fans say Shmolik probably drank before coming onto the field. He kept cool until the thirtieth minute. Then he began moving awkwardly, half-slouched over. During halftime, a football inspector at the match told him he needed to move more. At the sixty-eighth minute, the referee stood in the central circle waiting for the end of the match. He was escorted off the field. READ MORE

Sex slaves to the model industry

The noise around the recent tragedy isn’t getting any quieter. Last month, the 20-year-old star model Ruslana Korshunova jumped from a ninth-story window in New York. Foreign press have recently reported the “Russian Mermaid”was without work, fell into depression and let herself go. Dark circles could be seen under her eyes in her home photographs. Her face looked tired and sad. Ruslana attended seminars in Moscow to help heal her mental breakdown. But her career troubles were accompanied by an unhappy love life. The result was a tragic suicide.

Foreign media have also wrote about the modeling industry’s “New York-Paris-Moscow” shadow mafia that forces Russian models to work for miserly pay, uses them and tosses them out like garbage. Korshunova’s friends were surprised that her agency didn’t even offer to pay for her funeral. Her loved ones had to collect money themselves.

We decided to find out more about the dubious “international model trade,”and to tell our readers the tricks often used to lure and keep innocent young women captive.

Trick One: Debt

Today, it’s impossible for a girl to break into the international fashion industry straight off the street. An entire network of modeling agencies exists in Russia that looks for young girls to send abroad. It’s easier for Western companies to deal with agencies that have an arsenal of beautiful women. So it’s hard for girls to make it in the business without an agent as everyone wants their cut.

Modeling agencies receive payments to their accounts and pay the girls after all the expenses have been accounted for. On the one hand, it’s easier to make a name in the business with the help of an agency. On the other hand, most models don’t become financial successes overnight and quickly fall into debt as they are rarely able to cover the expenses their modeling agencies incur.

We called the Russian model Vanya in Paris to learn more about the situation. She’s 17 years old and has worked abroad two years.

“Ruslana Korshunova was part of the same agency as I am in Moscow — ‘Black Model Management,'” Vanya told KP. “We have the same agent, Aleksey Kalinin. He has a lot of experience and huge connections abroad. Aleksey was her Russia-side agent until the very end. His agency takes a cut from all our work done abroad — something like 10 percent. The agency that represents us abroad also takes a cut — about 20 percent. Taxes are also deducted before we see any money — and taxes are huge in the U.S. Expenses for food and pocket money are also taken out of our salary as the foreign agency pays all these expenses in advance.”

Vanya said Russian girls usually work themselves into a debt within several years.

“I’m not in the ‘plus’ yet either, although I’ve already been working abroad two years,” Vanya said.

The models only receive $100 per week for food and transport. As a result, many models take the metro to get to fashion shows that may be held several times per day. Cosmetologists, hairdressers, masseuses and fitness experts are needed, too. They’re also quite expensive.

“Foreigners come up with all sorts of expenses and present models with astronomical bills,” said another model working in Paris. “For example, my agency made me make new photographs. But they prohibited me from using any photographer but their own. It turned out he charged me far more than the market price. The agency also overcharged me for other services so they could deduct the costs later.”

One model told us how a Moscow agency had played her for a fool after sending her to Tokyo. The Tokyo agency wired the money she had earned (before deductions) to her Moscow agency, which shut down immediately after. The directors opened a new agency within a matter of days.

How much do models earn? Beginners make $100-300 per fashion show (before deductions). Top models earn over $1,000 per show, but reaching that level takes time and few get there. Many young models starve abroad less for the sake of their waistline than bank account.

Trick Two: Health

Models have bouts of depression for two reasons — when they’re out of work or have too much work. The girls have to run around to all sorts of shows. They always need to look good and they start taking stimulants and drugs. And they run the risk of collapsing due to the crazy rhythm of life.

“Nervous stress is part of the package for new models,” Vanya said. “I was first sent to Tokyo at 15. I wound up in a strange country, without knowing the language and without any moral support. What happened to me occurs with all new models abroad. I started going to night clubs to relax and get rid of my nervousness. I drank, smoked and tried to save myself from my depression and stress. I started missing castings and went to some of them inebriated. I couldn’t sleep, called home and yelled: ‘Get me out of here. I don’t want anything anymore!’ But my parents weren’t rich enough to go to Japan to get me. And the agency wouldn’t let me go. No one wanted to give me work after seeing how I looked. I gained 8 pounds from going to all the night clubs. I was really out of shape. I remember my booker in Japan called Aleksey and complained. He said I was too young and didn’t know anything, I was acting horribly and he didn’t know what to do with me! But luckily they gave me a second chance. I went on a diet and lost weight. And now I’m in Paris. I’ve talked to other models and learned we all go through depression. It’s the school of life.”

“How do you fight depression now?” we asked.

“Sometimes I take sedatives and other times energizers. My stomach is ruined from all these diets. But I have to keep in shape. I hope I achieve everything I’ve set out to accomplish,” Vanya said.

“What can depression do to a model?” we asked

“It can drive her to suicide in Ruslana’s case! I’m just lucky nothing like that has happened to me,” she said.

But agents also say they take risks. When they pay for a model’s food and housing, they’re placing a wager on the likelihood that she’ll succeed. READ MORE