A Lenin impersonator who makes his living posing for photographs with tourists in Red Square appeared in a Moscow court yesterday accused of insulting churchgoers. He denied the charges and received unlikely backing from the last Tsar of Russia.
Police said they had received two phone calls from people angry that Sergey Solovyov, the 53-year-old Lenin lookalike, was directing abuse at visitors to a church at the entrance to Red Square. Mr Solovyov said he had not insulted anyone and said that police carted him off on Monday without explanation. His version was backed by Viktor Chepkasov, a 55-year-old who also works on Red Square impersonating Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. Mr Chepkasov was also detained, but "Lenin" was held overnight, while the "Tsar" was released.
The real Lenin spent years in exile, and on the run from the Tsar's secret police, before the Russian Revolution in 1917. His elder brother was executed for his part in a plot to kill an earlier tsar. Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolshevik regime led by Lenin in 1918. However, today the two lookalikes work in a tandem, doing a roaring trade as they charge tourists 100 roubles (about £2) to have photographs taken with them.
Mr Chepkasov claimed that the real reason for the arrest was that unlike many other lookalikes who work on Red Square, he and Mr Solovyov had always refused to pay bribes to the local police.
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