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12 Feb, 2020 15:15

Russian TV host could be jailed for up to six years after calling poor parents 'uneducated scum'

Russian TV host could be jailed for up to six years after calling poor parents 'uneducated scum'

She built a lucrative career as a forthright 'reality television' star, but Alena Vodonaeva may have gone too far after attacking the impoverished for having children. Her remarks have angered many in Russia.

Especially given it comes on the back of President Vladimir Putin's increases in 'maternity capital,' money given to mothers to help with the upbringing of their newborns.

Now a journalist, Vodonaeva first entered public life as a star of the reality show 'Dom-2,' a long-running series somewhat analogous to western TV versions of 'Big Brother.' Now, she's under investigation by police after a month-long string of attacks against "uneducated scum" who decide to have offspring.

The story began on December 25, 2019, when Vodonaeva wrote an impassioned post on the social network Instagram. Her speech was decried by many as 'pro-abortion,' after she encouraged poor people not to give birth.

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"Unfortunately, we live in a poor and greedy country, and if you are not sure that you can provide yourself and your child with knowledge, medicine, food, and clothing, then you just do not need to give birth," she wrote. "In Russia, either rich people or uneducated scum give birth, for the most part... unfortunately, many children in Russia do not appear from the thirst for fatherhood and motherhood, but from a banal desire to have sex."

Vodonaeva's long post also included her saying that she "despises" families in poverty with many children. She went on to ask how they manage to raise them, suggesting that their only hope is to save money given out by the government or to wait "until some mayor sees a story about their hard life on some local talk show and decides to gift them a newly constructed apartment."

Although she garnered criticism from some prominent politicians, the overall online response was generally positive. Her Instagram post gained almost 58k likes, and there were hundreds of comments in agreement.

Less than one month later, Vodonaeva doubled down. On January 15, 2020, she took to Instagram to criticize the government's policy of 'maternity capital.' This is money paid to new mothers for each child born, and was recently raised to 466,000 rubles ($7,380) per child.

"This is what I talked about earlier," she wrote, "The demography problem is not in the amount of maternity capital but in the standard of living of Russians. This million and a bit [rubles] risks becoming fatal for future generations if impoverished Russians or the scum who never have enough money for a bottle of vodka start giving birth just for the sake of this million (sic)."

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Vodonaeva's second post turned out to be more provocative than the first, and the reaction was much stronger. State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin called for her to be fined for "offending our citizens."

Her second post reached the national consciousness, and this time it wasn't just politicians condemning her - the scandal was discussed on TV chat shows, and well-known actor and provocateur Ivan Okhlobystin even called her a 'whore.'

Now, law enforcement agencies have decided to get involved. On Monday, a police spokesman told news agency TASS that, "Vodonaeva was summoned [for interrogation] to the police department for the Tagansky district of Moscow. The police were interested in her publications about abortion and demography, which she posted on Instagram. They have begun a preliminary investigation."

Her lawyer, Yekaterina Gordon, wrote on Facebook that the criminal case had no legal basis, and Vodonaeva has refused to take back any of her words. If charged and found guilty, she could face a prison sentence of up to 6 years.

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