Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestant

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Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestant
Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestant

Vladimir Putin is seeking to weaponise the Miss Universe contest by giving state backing to Russian contestant Anna Linnikova.

The model, 22, refused to answer a question on what she will say to Miss Ukraine when they meet for this month’s pageant held in New Orleans.

In contrast, Ukrainian contestent Viktoria Apanasenko, 28, has spoken movingly about the “evil” and “cruelty” inflicted on her country by Putin.

In a heartfelt message she said: “It is very important to keep talking about the war.

“We must be a reliable rear for our Armed Forces.

Russian model killed after calling Putin a 'psychopath' was strangled by her ex rridqqieqiqerinvRussian model killed after calling Putin a 'psychopath' was strangled by her ex

“We need the support of other countries to save the lives of our people and stop the cruelty of Russia.

“I am aware of my responsibility to be one of Ukraine's ambassadors in the international arena at such a difficult and terrible time.

“But I am Ukrainian - we are brave, strong and determined.

Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestantLinnikova is up against Ukrainian beauty, Viktoria Apanasenko, 28, who has spoken of the "evil" and "cruelty" inflicted on her country (@crystal.viktoria/east2west news)
Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestantApanasenko draped in Ukraine's blue and yellow flag (@crystal.viktoria/east2west news)

“No matter what, I believe that together we can defeat the evil that has come to our lands.”

Surprisingly, in a blow to Ukraine, the US is believed to have granted a visa to Linnikova to attend the beauty contest, after she travelled to the American embassy in Kazakhstan to lodge her application.

Pro-Putin sites have hailed Russia’s success in avoiding sanctions for Miss Universe.

Kremlin-run news agency TASS hosted her pre-pageant press conference, highlighting the state backing for her, which avoided talk of the war.

Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestantAnna Linnikova, 22, is set to represent Russia in Miss Universe in New Orleans in January (@ann_lnnn/EAST2WEST NEWS)

Instead she paraded her Miss Universe national dress with overt imperial connotations - seen as offensive in Ukraine given Putin’s attempts to invade and subjugate the country.

Her national costume is called “The Crown of the Russian Empire”, and was created in cooperation with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, in further backing by Putin’s regime.

Linnikova - who is also slated to be Russian contestant at Miss World 2023 - dreams of conquering America, said her ex-boyfriend Artemy Zhuravlev, a model and producer who fled his homeland to avoid the draft.

Give Ukraine western fighter jets to fight Russians, urges Boris JohnsonGive Ukraine western fighter jets to fight Russians, urges Boris Johnson

“We'd been dating for a little over a year, and broke up because we didn't get along,” he said.

"She dreamed of acting in American films, to shine in Hollywood…

“She wanted to make the necessary connections as soon as possible and I know that she already has some….”

She believes in her victory as Miss Universe and “wants to be noticed”, he said.

Linnikova boasts of using tsarist decorations for Miss Universe, at a time when Ukrainians are toppling a statue of Catherine the Great in Odessa, which Putin evidently seeks to invade.

The national dress is “made in the style of the Romanov era, inspired by the tiara of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova” - tragic tsarina of Nicholas II, Russia’s last monarch, she said.

“This is an absolutely luxurious and rich dress, embroidered with Swarovski stones – I think there will definitely be 1000 rhinestones,” she trilled.

She will “shine and shimmer like a real diamond”, she said.

Russia has been banned from international competitions - yet she feels under no pressure despite the horror of the war in Ukraine, which she refuses to mention.

“No, my attitude is as positive as possible,” she said.

Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestantLinnikova boasts of using tsarist decorations for Miss Universe, at a time when Ukrainians are toppling a statue of Catherine the Great in Odessa, which Putin evidently seeks to invade (SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

“I am glad that Russia is participating in the international competition.

“I believe in my strength and I hope that I will succeed.”

In contrast, Miss Ukraine, a psychology graduate from a top Kyiv university with a degree in social work, has actively aided her desperate people in the war.

She helped provide food and medicine to children, elderly people, and internally displaced families .

Apanasenko’s national costume was created “in Ukraine in four months in extreme conditions, to the sound of sirens, without electricity, and by candlelight”.

The costume is called “Warrior of Light” and she says it "symbolizes our nation's fight against darkness” - “ like Archangel Michael, who defends Ukraine with a sword, it protects us."

As the Russians bombed her home town Chernihiv, her father underwent complicated heart surgery, she revealed.

Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestantPutin stands in front of the Russian flag at a military awards ceremony (Kremlin Pool/UPI/REX/Shutterstock)

“It was very dangerous there,” she said.

“After his his operation, he couldn't even sit up, his chest was sawn open.

“Dad had to take out his own stitches in a basement.

“This is a very scary period of my life.

“And only my former classmate, who serves in the territorial defence, brought food to my parents.

“This is when I realised I should volunteer.”

She told how “the scariest thing for me was to overcome myself and go to Bucha for the first time” to help a place ravaged by the Russian invasion.

She vowed: “The main goal for me is the victory of our country, so that there is a peaceful sky over our heads, so that we finally leave home and are not afraid to look into this sky.

Vladimir Putin to weaponise Miss Universe contest by backing Russian contestantAnna Linnikova, 22, will represent Russia in the Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans in January 2023 (@ann_lnnn/east2west news)

“My main mission is to inform the world that the war continues.”

She said: “I dream that we will win the war and our suffering will end.

“I dream of quietly going to my native Chernihiv, visiting my grandparents, and being with my parents.

“I dream of not being afraid to go outside.

“I dream that we could just breathe a breath of fresh air.

“ We have incredible people, they deserve to be happy in their free and beautiful Ukraine.

“I dream that the country will rebuild, flourish, so that people who have lost their homes will have new ones.”

Linnikova, in contrast, faced criticism for failing to answer on social media on what she would say to Apanasenko.

“Don't expect to be Miss Universe if you can't address sensitive questions,” said one.

A supporter of the Russian said: “She does not have to say anything to her, she is not the one who started the war, there is a president of her country and politicians, these questions are addressed to them and not to her…. beauty contests have nothing to do with…politics.”

When she won the Miss Russia title last year, Linnikova said she valued the chance to “speak publicly about pressing problems and attract public attention to socially significant things” - but this did not include the slaughter of Ukrainians by Russian forces.

Putin has been previously accused of using the Miss Universe pageant for his own purposes, with claims he once sought to compromise Donald Trump..

Russia hosted Miss Universe in 2013, which led to claims from former British MI6 spy Christopher Steele prostitutes were involved in a "golden shower" urination show in front of Trump at Moscow’s most elite hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, charges the ex-US president has always robustly denied.

Miss Universe Organization CEO Amy Emmerich said last month she expects some criticism for allowing both Russia and Ukraine into the contest during the war.

“Miss Universe Organization tries to stay apolitical, but we do believe in pushing and creating a platform for the delegates’ voices as loud as they may be, for whatever it is they believe,” she told Variety.

“I didn’t feel like that we should basically hold Miss Russia accountable for something that was out of her control. So that’s why we said yes.”

Miss Universe 2022, the 71st Miss Universe pageant, is to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 14.

Will Stewart

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