MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) – Saying sorry for racist remarks was an unusual role for a Russian character actor who mostly plays crooks and cops and reportedly likes swinger parties and nudist beaches.
On Friday, Alexei Panin publicly apologized to the Crimean Tatar community in Ukraine for his derogatory comments about the predominantly Muslim ethnic group that was deported en masse on Josef Stalin’s orders in 1944 to Central Asia for its alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany.
His hate-speech saga started on Tuesday after an altercation with an ethnic Crimean Tatar man who rear-ended Panin’s car in the Crimean city of Alushta, Ukrainian news portal 0652.ua reported, quoting a witness.
Commenting on the accident, Panin reportedly made disparaging remarks about Crimean Tatars, who were allowed to return to the Crimean Peninsula in 1988 after more than four decades of exile.
“There are Crimean Tatars who returned to the Crimea, who work, try to be decent people, and there are people Stalin did not finish off in 1944,” the 35-year-old actor told the Ukrainian online newspaper Segodnya.ua on Wednesday.
A day later, he said that Stalin had been “right” in ordering the deportation, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people. “Yes, I did say that Stalin was right to deport them from the Crimea during the war,” Panin told the Krym.Kommentarii website Thursday.
Predictably, his diatribes enraged Crimean Tatar leaders.
Mustafa Dzhemilev, head of the Crimean regional parliament, urged authorities to investigate Panin’s speech, Segodnya.ua reported Wednesday. Lawmaker Mufret Velief said that Panin “had offended the entire Crimean Tatar nation,” the Argumenty Nedely – Kerch online newspaper said Thursday.
Crimean police said in a web-posted statement Thursday that they had launched a probe into the car accident and ensuing altercation and had charged Panin with “hooliganism.”
On Friday morning, the suntanned and visibly embarrassed actor addressed a crowd of journalists and spectators on the main square in the Crimean city of Kerch. “I did not mean to offend the Tatar nation, I apologize,” Panin is seen as saying in a video posted on the kerch.com.ua website.
Since 2000, Panin has starred in dozens of films and soap operas playing petty thieves, corrupt policemen, hoodlums and pimps, according to his fan club’s website.
In June, Panin was charged with the “deliberate destruction of property” after a drunken brawl at a hotel bar in the Russian Black Sea resort of Tuapse, Russian media reported.
Panin said that he has for years attended swinger parties and sunbathed on nudist beaches, Segodnya.ua reported in June.
Russian tabloids have also run a series of photos of him and his girlfriend posing naked and simulating oral sex.
Almost 200,000 Crimean Tatars were deported from their homes in May 1944, mostly to Soviet Uzbekistan, resulting in the deaths of up to half of them from starvation and disease, according to declassified Soviet secret police data quoted by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, an international group that unites indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities.
Stalin also orchestrated the mass deportations of the Chechens, Ingush, Volga Germans and Black Sea Greeks, whom he accused of collaborating with the advancing Nazis. Most historians say those claims were false or grossly exaggerated, and argue that the real reason for the deportations was to stamp out resistance to Soviet rule.
Crimean Tatars constitute about 0.5 percent of Ukraine's population of 45 million.
In mid-August, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe condemned incidents of hate speech, vandalism of religious sites and violent clashes involving Crimean Tatars and other ethnic minorities in Crimea.
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