Russian Celebrities Urge Putin to Back Arrested Official

MOSCOW, Jan 24, 2001 -- (Agence France Presse) Former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov was among a line-up of Russian celebrities who urged President Vladimir Putin Wednesday to support Pavel Borodin, held in a U.S. jail on corruption charges.
"We call on you, Mr. President, to take charge personally of efforts to get Pavel Borodin freed from jail as soon as possible," they wrote in an open letter to Putin.

In addition to Karpov, once the darling of the Soviet chess establishment, the singer-turned-politician Yosif Kobzon, dubbed Russia's Frank Sinatra due to his nation-wide popularity and alleged links to the mob, also signed the letter.
National soccer team coach Oleg Romantsev and Oleg Tabakov, the artistic director of the world-famous MKhAT theater, joined a host of academics and stars from literature, sport, and the arts to send the protest to the Kremlin.

Borodin, a top confidant of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, was arrested last week at New York's John F Kennedy airport on Swiss money-laundering charges.
The letter's signatories appealed to Putin, "in the name of Russia", to take immediate action.

"We are particularly concerned that Pavel Borodin's arrest signals a major international campaign to discredit Russia as a totally corrupt country," they wrote.
Karpov said he wanted "to fight the lack of respect with which people talked about Russia," although he added he did not wish to prejudge Borodin's case.
Borodin is accused of having received at least 25 million dollars in kickbacks from two Swiss firms, Mabetex and Mercata, who won contracts to renovate the Kremlin while he was the presidential property manager.

He is currently in a New York jail facing possible extradition to Switzerland. 

(c) 2001 Agence France Presse)