United Russia's latest member: Naomi Campbell? [Update: April Fools]

Update: Argh...It seems this may have been a very well-executed April Fools joke by the Moscow Times. Well played guys. The Chavez thing is real though. 

Vladimir Putin's political party United Russia is known for appointing celebrities with dubious political credentials to prominent positions, but usually they're at least Russian celebrities. Now, according to the Moscow Times, they may be looking a bit futher afield, recruiting British supermodel and tabloid favorite, Naomi Campbell: 

“She is a young, sexy, intelligent woman who has shown how the new Russia can attract the best in the world,” said the source, who asked for his name not to be used because he was not authorized to speak to the press despite working in the United Russia press office.

“Once she modernized the fashion world, now she is part of the modernization of Russia,” the source said.

The British model, who is engaged to real estate mogul Vladislav Doronin, currently spends much of her time in Moscow and recently guest edited the Russian edition of Vogue, where she appeared clothed in only a big snake.

The source’s use of the term "modernization" is a deliberate echo of President Dmitry Medvedev’s call for the modernization of the country. The source refused to say if party head and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or Medvedev knew of Campbell’s interest in United Russia.

Oh brother. It's certainly possible that the spokesman was going off the reservation, but a few more anonymous Duma sources confirm it and this doesn't exactly seem out of character for United Russia. Duma deputy Sergei Markov is quoted in the article saying that "gymnasts Kabayeva and Svetlana Khorkina have shown that women with a strong presence in previous nonpolitical spheres can become capable members of United Russia.” So there. 

The source of the story also notes that Campbell would be United Russia's highest profile black member, and perhaps only the second or third black member of the party. I guess Volgograd Obama didn't work out. 

As for Campbell, we should have seen this coming. When the volatile supermodel interviewed Hugo Chavez for GQ back in 2008, she memorably asked him "if he would ever be photographed without a shirt, like Russian [then-] president Vladimir Putin."

She's a natural!



A coup fails

The coup-in-progress in Guinea-Bissau mentioned in this morning's brief appears to have failed: 

The prime minister of Guinea-Bissau, Carlos Gomes Junior, has been released after being briefly detained by soldiers in an apparent coup attempt. Military music played on the radio, a telltale sign of a coup, during the incident. Gomes was released hours later as hundreds of people gathered in front of his office chanting "Never a coup d'etat in Guinea-Bissau."

The minister of territorial administration, Luis Sanca, said he and the prime minister were abducted by the soldiers at 8am and taken to the capital's main military camp, where they saw the head of the armed forces, Zamora Induta, also under guard. Sanca said the soldiers released him and Gomes at about 11 but were still holding the army chief.

"The prime minister has been freed and is meeting the president," said a family member, who asked not to be named. Mamadou Diao, the prime minister's press attache, confirmed the release.

It would be wishful thinking to hope that things will return to normal in Guinea-Bissau, an archetypal failing state and major drug transshipment point, but after a series of coups and assassinations over the last few years, it's good news that the government appears to have held on. Leaders of the West African regional body ECOWAS, having already suspended Guinea and Niger after recent coups, are probably breathing a sigh of relief as well.