Tag Archives: kazakhstan

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

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New Russia celebrates independence 18 years after Soviet collapse

A look at how our former Soviet neighbors are developing and how they feel about Russia

Few Russians know what holiday they’re celebrating on June 12 as the date is noteworthy for two reasons. On June 12, 1990, Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin signed the declaration “On the State Sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic.” And exactly one year later Yeltsin became the Russian Federation’s first president. Undoubtedly Russians know both dates. But each year on June 12 they are actually celebrating Russia’s independence. Ex-President Vladimir Putin issued a decree in 2001 marking the date as the state holiday “Russia Day.”

Who is Russia independent of? How are the sovereign, once brotherly Soviet republics faring today? We analyzed the present situation in the post-Soviet world and studied synopses provided by the Center for Post-Industrial Researches Director Vladislav Inozemtsev and Globalization and Social Movement Institute Director Boris Bagarlitskiy.

Belarus

Population: In 1989, 10.2 million; Today, 9.75 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $3,792

Economic Growth: 8.6%

Average Wage: $376.60

Rating of Benevolence to Russia*: 80%

Synopsis

Inozemtsev: “Belarus is more economically tied with Russia than the other former Soviet republics. It needs our gas. Commodity circulation in other sectors is also large between Russia and Belarus. At the moment, any talks about Belarus becoming closer to Russia are only words as the Belarusian elite doesn’t want the country to be a member of a unified state. But Russia buys their idle talk and indulges Lukashenko with discounted prices on gas.”

KP Commentary

Six years ago, Lukashenko promised to introduce the Russian ruble. Twelve years have passed since Russian and Belarus signed the agreement on a unified state. Indeed, we are officially a single nation. Only the presidents of Russia and Belarus are different.

Moldova

Population: In 1989, 4.338 million; Today, 4.1 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $876

Economic Growth: 4%

Average Wage: $226

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 52%

Synopsis

Inozemtsev: “We hardly have ties with Moldova — especially after the wine embargo. Moldovans consider themselves Europeans. But still they have serious points of discontent with Romania. They haven’t even been able to sign an agreement on the Moldovan-Romanian border.”

KP Commentary

Gastarbeiters compose one third of Moldova’s able-bodied population. Half of them work in Russia. In January-February 2008, they sent $186 million to Moldova in remittances. The average wage in Moldova is the lowest in Europe: 0.2 euro cents per hour.

Armenia

Population: In 1989, 3.228 million; Today, 3 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $2,128

Economic Growth: 13.7%

Average Wage: $270.80

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 85%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “An anecdote. An Armenian caught a rabbit and brought it home to his wife.

“‘Boil this.’

“‘There’s no water.’

“‘Then fry it.’

“‘There’s no gas.’

“‘Well then put it in the microwave…’

“‘There’s no electricity!’

“The husband grabbed the rabbit and threw it out the window.

‘Welcome to independent Armenia!'”

Kagarlitskiy: “The Armenians maintain a relationship with Iran and fight Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Moscow supports Azerbaijan’s stance in the conflict. So it’s unlucky Armenia is Russia’s satellite state.”

Kazakhstan

Population: In 1989, 16.536 million; Today, 15.581 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $5,043

Economic Growth: 8.5%

Average Wage: $434

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 84%

Synopsis

Inozemtsev: “Unlike Russia, Kazakhstan has gas and oil pipelines to China. Energy-wise, nearly all the Central Asian republics are quietly turning to the flag with the rising sun. I’m afraid it’s impossible to curtail this allegiance. And we ourselves are to blame. We downplayed Kazakhstan’s significance in our foreign policy too often.”

Uzbekistan

Population: In 1989, 19.905  million; Today, 26.851 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $598

Economic Growth: 9.5%

Average Wage: $210

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 85%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “Uzbekistan needs us for our power factor. But if Moscow starts to exert strength, Tashkent will turn toward the U.S. and China. And vice versa. In the early 2000s, the U.S. started to activate its resources in Uzbekistan. As a result, the Uzbeks quickly ‘made friends’ with the Russians and asked the U.S. to free the Khanabad aerodrome. So the current friendship between Moscow and Tashkent could end quite abruptly.”

Kyrgyz Republic

Population: In 1989, 4.29 million; Today, 5.166 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $536

Economic Growth: 7.3%

Average Wage: $120.90

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 84%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “The Kyrgyz Republic hasn’t been able to remain stable since the Tulip Revolution. In a cultural sense the nation has benevolent feelings for Russia. The nationalism sometimes seen among the Kazakhs isn’t as apparent in the Kyrgyz Republic.”

Tajikistan

Population: In 1989, 5.109  million; Today, 7.163 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $424

Economic Growth: 7.3%

Average Wage: $60

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 90%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “The nation wouldn’t have survived without Russian and Kazakh aid. Today, only Russia ensures Tajikistan’s statehood.”

KP Commentary

The Tajiks are the poorest among former Soviet nations (63% live on less than $2 per day), but they aren’t dying out with 26 births per 1,000 people. Russia’s figure is half as high. A third of Tajikistan’s population works in Russia.

Turkmenistan

Population: In 1989, 3.534 million; Today, 6.786 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $1,327

Economic Growth: Roughly 10% (The Turkmen don’t publish this information.)

Average Wage: $140

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 42%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “The country is self-sufficient, yet underdeveloped and unstable. It houses a single clan. It’s also quite clear Turkmenistan wants Russian investment.”

Inozemtsev: “Don’t get carried away with the idea that the Turkmens want to return to Russia. There’s nothing Russia in Turkmenistan. The country is completely closed and has almost no ties with us — economic or cultural.”

Azerbaijan

Population: In 1989, 7.38 million; Today, 8.436 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $2362

Economic Growth: 30%

Average Wage: $273

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 35%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “Azerbaijan basically has a monarchy. The country’s economy is larger than Turkmenistan’s and integrated with Russia’s. We have fairly close ties.”

KP Commentary

Heydar Aliyev’s successor Ilham has a good head on his shoulders. Azerbaijan is participating in the construction of the Nabukko pipeline bypassing Russia and Europe.

Lithuania

Population: In 1989, 3.690  million; Today, 3.366  million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $7505

Economic Growth: 8%

Average Wage: $930

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 43%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “The Lithuanians were always the most fiery anti-Soviets. Now they’re indifferent about their Estonian and Latvian neighbors and greeting Russian tourists with open arms.”

KP Commentary

Lithuania is also exceptional for its birthrate, which is 218th in the world (of 222). The Lithuanians commit suicide and die in automobile accidents more than residents of other European nations. Last year the country became Europe’s leader in the number of emigrants. The Lithuanians are moving to the more developed Western European nations and the U.S.

Latvia

Population: In 1989, 2.680 million; Today, 2.295 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $781

Economic Growth: 10.5%

Average Wage: $897

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 50%

Georgia

Population: In 1989, 5.443 million; Today, 4.7 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $1,746

Economic Growth: 11.4%

Average Wage: $130

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 49%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “The country has almost no economy. At one point Russia couldn’t feed Georgia. So the country has turned to the West and hopes to be saved from a hungry death.”

Inozemtsev: “But Saakashvilli was able to shatter the bureaucratic system. He gave the private economic sector the opportunity to grow.”

KP Commentary

Besides Borzhomi, wine and mandarins, the Georgians have another strategic product. Last year Saakashvilli made $32 million on pine cones. They’re good for the health and grow in the Borzhomi Gorge among mineral waters.

Saakashvilli and Yushchenko have taken their countries along the path of colored revolutions.

Ukraine

Population: In 1989, 51.707 million; Today, 46.337 million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $2,287

Economic Growth: 7,3%

Average Wage: $344.50

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 88%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “Ukraine is tightly connected with Russia. Our business presence is remarkable there. The power-consuming Ukrainian economy needs our gas. And we need Ukraine as it is the cheapest transit route for our energy suppliers.”

Inozemtsev: “Ukraine isn’t choosing between Russia and the West. It’s floundering between the West and independence. Talks about Ukraine sooner or later splitting and its eastern half joining Russia are unfounded. In terms of Ukraine’s economy, the country’s business elite understood long ago that it’s easier to work with the European system than compete with Russia’s oligarchs on post-Soviet territory.”

One of the biggest conflicts with Ukraine is over the fate of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

Estonia

Population: In 1989, 1.573  million; Today, 1.324  million

Welfare: GDP per capita — $12,007

Economic Growth: 6.4%

Average Wage: $1,233

Rating of Benevolence to Russia: 51%

Synopsis

Kagarlitskiy: “In my opinion everything is clear in terms of our neighbors Estonia and Latvia. And here’s the paradox. Russian can be heard more and more in these countries. There are more and more Russians there, especially in Tallinn and Riga. So the Baltic states have nowhere to run.”

KP Commentary

Not long ago, the Estonians were surprised to learn that the country’s most common last name is “Ivanov.” READ MORE