Bure Sues Cosmetics Chain Over Sex Report
By Maria Levitov
Hockey heartthrob Pavel Bure is suing Arbat Prestizh for 300 million rubles ($10.66 million) after the cosmetics chains free promotional paper ran an article in which Bure brags about taking the virginity of tennis princess Anna Kournikova.
If the Russian-born National Hockey League star wins the suit, it would be one of the biggest awards for libel in the countrys history.
"I believe that the magazine Arbat Prestizh Telegid disseminated information inconsistent with reality [and] besmirching my honor and dignity," Bure said in a filing to Moscows Tagansky district court last week.
In addition to monetary compensation, Bure is demanding that Arbat Prestizh print a retraction and an apology in the retailers free weekly, which ran the story in December under the title "Russian Rocket In Freefall."
Arbat Prestizh declined to comment on the case, saying only that "the situation remains unclear."
Although Bure has already won a libel suit in a Russian court, he is unlikely to have much success this time because of the claims size, said Igor Trunov, a lawyer specializing in cases involving moral damages. "Bure will have to prove moral suffering … resulting in such harm as health damages … which will be difficult," he said. "There is no legal mechanism for calculating the monetary equivalent of moral damages in Russia."
The last time Bure felt morally damaged enough to go to court was in 2001, when he sued a Moscow expatriate publication, The Exile, for 500,000 rubles.
The weekly quoted Bure in a spoof on a U.S. tabloid. The offending article has since vanished from the papers web site. Bures attorney, Dmitry Ragulin, said the material was "too offensive" to repeat.
The Exiles editor, Mark Ames, declined to comment on the matter.
Five years ago, British and local media reported that Bure had proposed to Kournikova. The athlete denied the reports, but did not go to court.
Bures Moscow spokeswoman, Yulia Solntseva, said Bure did not take those reports seriously. The main difference with The Exiles and Arbat Prestizhs publications is that they quoted Bure directly, she said.
Millions of dollars in moral damages are normally not awarded in Russia, Trunov said, "unless special interests are involved."
In 2002, Novaya Gazeta lost a $1 million libel case after reporting that the Krasnodar regions top judge was living well beyond his means. That sum was beaten last year when Kommersant was ordered to pay $11 million to Alfa Bank for a report that the bank claimed caused a panic among depositors.
Wednesday, February 9, 2005. Issue 3102. Page 5.