Playboy girl to tennis star: Russia's exotic parliament
While lacking any representatives of the liberal opposition, Russia's new parliament which met for the first time Wednesday is packed with celebrities ranging from a Playboy cover girl to a tennis legend.
The four factions with seats in the State Duma, especially the United Russia party of Vladimir Putin, have stepped up a tradition of encouraging household names to take seats in an apparent bid to give the chamber more appeal.
How much impact they will have on political life remains to be seen, given celebrity MPs in the previous State Duma were criticised for showing little interest in policy and rarely showing up for debates.
Herewith are the most prominent celebrities in the new Duma. All are sitting for United Russia unless stated otherwise.
-- Russian actress Maria Kozhevnikova, 27.
Kozhevnikova won fame in the sitcom "Univer" in which she starred as a blonde woman who dreamed of finding a rich husband. However she rose to even greater prominence with a lusty cover appearance in the September 2009 issue of the Russian edition of Playboy which showed her naked body entwined in various positions around a car seat.
The new Duma also includes film director Stanislav Govorukhin, who directed the classic Soviet television series "The Meeting Place Cannot be Changed". Govorukhin is to head Putin's presidential campaign.
THE SPORTS STAR
-- Marat Safin, 31, former world tennis number one.
Safin, who is representing the region of Nizhny Novgorod, has said he is treating his new role with the utmost seriousness, although he has been quick to deny speculation he would be keen to become Russian president. "Of course I could pose in fashion commercials showing myself as a high society star but it's definitely not my lifestyle," he said.
He will have good company of sports stars in the Duma, joined by former world heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev, wrestler Alexander Karelin, rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva and Olympic figure skating champion Irina Rodnina.
THE TV PERSONALITY
-- Alexei Pushkov, 57
A former speechwriter for Mikhail Gorbachev, Pushkov presents the popular news show "Postscriptum" and is known for his forthright views on foreign policy which emphasise Russia's status as a world power. He is expected to take on the post of head of the committee for foreign affairs and markedly raise the profile of the post.
Opera singer Maria Maksakova is also taking a seat but there is no longer a place for Svetlana Zakharova, one of the world's most sought after ballerinas who in the last years juggled her political engagement with dancing commitments and giving birth.
THE EX-SECURITY AGENT
-- Viktor Cherkesov, 61
Cherkesov is a veteran of the Soviet KGB and its successor the FSB in Saint Petersburg, the hometown of Putin. In Soviet times he had a reputation for interrogating political dissidents. He then moved onto a career in Moscow, including heading Russia's anti-narcotics agency.
Staying in the Duma for another term is ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi who represents the Liberal Democratic Party even though he is wanted by Britain over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Lugovoi maintains his innocence and is in any case protected by his immunity as an MP.
© 2011 AFP