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Russia

Putin-linked ice skater causes outrage with Holocaust routine

An ice skating routine featuring Russian performers dressed as concentration camp inmates has been slammed on social media. Skater Tatiana Navka, wife of Vladimir Putin's spokesman, has defended her intentions.

Tatiana Navka, an ice skater married to presidential aide Dmitry Peskov, skated into controversy over the weekend with a Holocaust-themed routine performed on state-owned Russian television.

Navka, an Olympic gold medal winner, and her skating partner, actor Andre Burkovsky, wore tattered, striped uniforms and large Stars of David for their four-minute performance, based on the Italian movie "Life is Beautiful." The 1997 tragicomedy by director Roberto Benigni tells of an Italian-Jewish man's fight to survive in a Nazi concentration camp. The pair, heavily made-up to look bruised, skated for a Russian celebrity competition show, "Ice Age."

The performance, which earned maximum points and praise from judges, drew outrage from Israel.

"Motifs from the Holocaust are not for parties, not for dance and not for reality [TV]," Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday.

"Not one of the 6 million [murdered Jews] danced and a concentration camp is not a summer camp."

Russian choreographer and producer of the show Ilya Averbukh, who is Jewish, said he stood by the dance.

"This routine is my idea," Averbukh, Olympic silver medalist, told "Komsomolskaya Pravda" on Sunday.

"I have done a lot of routines on the war and Jewish themes, there were very different characters."   

President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials have previously honored Holocaust victims and have condemned those who justify the crimes of the Nazis and their allies.

The performance has been panned on social media, with many calling it offensive. Jewish-American comedian Sarah Silverman expressed horror on Twitter.

Filmmaker Julia Davis asked whether Navka thought the Holocaust was "cute and funny."

Navka posted photos of the performance on Instagram, saying the routine was based on one of her favorite films. Navka added that she had intended to highlight the evils of the Holocaust for the benefit of the younger generation.

"Our children should know and remember this terrible time," she wrote.

Her post drew hundreds of comments; one user, 'inviatotravel,' branded the performance as "vile, tasteless and ignorant." Another user, 'andoomeda' said: "It seems their intentions are good but if only someone with some taste had stopped them."

Screenshot of the Youtube video of the performance

A video of the performance on Youtube has attracted more than 40,000 hits

"Have you gone mad? Smiles in prison uniforms with yellow stars! The audience erupting in applause... No taste, no, tact, no understanding," viewer Mihael Ratinsky wrote on the Channel One website. 

"This is terrible, people don't understand what they are doing. This is blasphemy," viewer Viki Reznik commented on a now-widely-viewed YouTube video.

It is "very complex" to depict the Holocaust appropriately, the head of the Moscow-based Holocaust Fund Alla Gerber told Govorit Moskva radio station.

"Primarily I think there must not be mockery, there must not be irony, there must not be a crooked smile."

Navka married presidential aide Peskov in a ritzy ceremony on the Black Sea coast last year, further propelling the couple into the celebrity limelight in Russia.

jr,aw/cmk (dpa, Twitter, Reuters, AFP)

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