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Shopping Spray: Loutish Russian's Beer-Biting Patriotism

  • Anna Shamanska

Stas Baretsky is foaming at the mouth about banned Western goods in Russia.

Stas Baretsky is foaming at the mouth about banned Western goods in Russia.

As the food-destruction craze over banned Western goods continues in Russia, the St. Petersburg Orthodox Union of Cossacks and a very large former band member have joined in.

The group went to a local store of the French supermarket chain Auchan -- which was recently targeted by Russian authorities for "systematic" inspections -- in search of prohibited imported goods. The resulting spectacle, accompanied by a gaggle of reporters and captured on video, looks like performance art.

The star of the video is Stas Baretsky, a former member of rock band Leningrad who is notorious for his oversized red sportcoat and outrageous combativeness on live television.

In it, he claims he is a newly appointed minister of culture for the Cossacks Union. Strolling through the shop, he asks an employee why a foreign brand of beer is "on the most visible display." Baretsky then bites into the can and tears it in two, spraying beer all over the place:

"This is not PR," he says, "It's -- well, it is PR."

He later repeats the can stunt at the request of journalists.

"Alcohol is bad. Look at me," he laughs as he stares into the camera.

Baretsky, sporting his trademark sportcoat, searches the aisles for goods banned under Russia's sanctions, which are aimed at punishing the West for its punitive measures over Moscow's forcible annexation of Crimea and other actions in Ukraine. Any labeling in a foreign language arouses Baretsky's suspicion.

"Goldfish. Is that a Russian firm? Doesn't seem like it," he says, studying canned fish.

"All this is Spanish," Baretsky says at another point, pointing at a shelf of cooking oils. "What did they do for us? Lifted the visa regime? No, they'll be taking our fingerprints as if we were the last you-know-who."

At the end of the video, resting on the supermarket bench, Baretsky shows the remains of at least three cans he has destroyed.

He pays for everything. In fact, the Cossacks buy all the foreign goods they can find before asking management for documents.

"We are in a state of Cold War with the European Union," says Cossack ataman Andrei Poliakov. "Why does Europe cause us troubles, and we have to feed it by buying its goods?"

Auchen management later assures the Cossack visitors that all the goods sold at the supermarket are legal and of proper quality.

Russia's agricultural oversight agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, has recently publicized authorities' destruction of tons of contraband food. It claimed that, as of August 21, the country had destroyed 555 tons of banned goods.

The policy, criticized both in Russia and abroad, has spawned a growing genre of food-destruction videos in the country.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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