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pte20030129054 Kultur/Lifestyle, Politik/Recht

Harry Potter elf stirs controversy in Russia

Court battle may ensue over character's resemblance to Putin

Moscow (pte054/29.01.2003/15:30) Dobby the house-elf, the computer animated star of the latest smash hit Harry Potter film, could soon be at the centre of a court battle over his resemblance to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

A Russian law firm is reportedly drawing up legal action against the special effects people who dreamt up Dobby as he appears in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets', arguing the lovable elf has been modelled on the Russian leader, local paper Novaya Gazeta has reported.

The Kremlin and Potter film producers Warner Bros http:// have declined to comment on the matter but the controversy has stirred emotions in Russia with some annoyed at what they say are the unfair comparisons between their leader and the ugly but caring elf of the latest Hogwarts saga.

Potter website and chatrooms have been inundated with angry Russians posting messages attacking anyone even suggesting a likeness between the elf and Putin.

The saga has gripped the Russian media too. Russian TV is going to broadcast the results of a poll carried out by the BBC in which people were asked to say if they thought Dobby looked like the Russian leader. The NTV station will tell the country how more than 7,000 people answered yes. Radio station Ekho Moskvy has also reported on the news.

The threatened legal action is the second controversy in Russia in recent months surrounding the best-selling children's books. Late last year the Russian Orthodox Church called for the books to be banned. It claimed that they promoted occultism and witchcraft.

It is also not the first time that Russians have lashed out over the misuse of the image of their President.

In 1995, the Prosecutor-General's Office launched an investigation into alleged insults against then-President Boris Yeltsin in the popular satirical puppet show "Kukly". The case was later dropped.

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