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Russia's new children's rights commissioner Anna Kuznetsova (file photo)

Russia's new children's rights commissioner Anna Kuznetsova (file photo)

It has only been a few days since 34-year old Anna Kuznetsova replaced scandal-plagued Pavel Astakhov as Russia's children's rights commissioner, but she has already become embroiled in a controversy of her own.

It has only been a few days since 34-year old Anna Kuznetsova replaced scandal-plagued Pavel Astakhov as Russia's children's rights commissioner, but she has already become embroiled in a controversy of her own.

Kuznetsova, who replaced Astakhov due to the fallout over his tendency to make callous, off-the-wall comments, is under the microscope for her alleged views on reproduction.

In a 2009 interview with Penza Medical Portal, a psychologist working as a "pre-abortion consultant" identified as Anna Kuznetsova discusses abortions and telegony, a widely debunked theory that every sexual partner a woman has ever had can physically and emotionally influence a child she gives birth to.

The theory -- which dates back to ancient Greece and was popular in the Middle Ages -- is often used to persuade women not to have premarital sex.

"Based on the relatively new science of telegony, we can say that the womb's cells have information-wavelength memory," the interviewee is quoted as saying. "So these cells remember everything that happened in them. For instance, if a woman has several partners, there is a significant chance of a baby being born weakened due to the mixing of information. This fact has an especially strong influence on the morals of a future child."

"An abortion, in its turn, is also a serious shock for a wanted baby, because the cells remember the fetus's fear before abortion -- they remember death."

Kuznetsova, a psychologist and mother of six children, told the RBK news portal she "doesn't remember" saying anything like that, and suggests that the topic was not something she was qualified to discuss.

"You know, it's a story of quite dubious origin," she said. "Besides, it seems like a qualified biologist, at the least a PhD, is speaking [in the interview]. I don't express myself like that," Kuznetsova said.

One 'Positive' Note

Her husband, Aleksei Kuznetsov, a senior priest in Penza Oblast, some 600 kilometers southeast of Moscow, also cast doubt on the interview.

"Some of our Penza journalists like to embellish their creations and add their thoughts to the article," he wrote on Facebook, speaking about local reports on the 2009 interview. Kuznetsov added that telegony is not a science and neither he, nor his wife "recognize its postulates, because there is a clear position of the church on the matter."

He did, however, find one positive note.

"I am happy that the commentators, without realizing it, promoted the topic of abstinence and morality :)," Kuznetsov wrote.

Tatyana Popadeva, the journalist who conducted the 2009 interview, confirmed that she had interviewed Kuznetsova, and defended her work while noting that people can change their mind or forget things from their past.

"We are not tale-tellers, we don't fantasize, don't embellish, don't invent," she said of journalists in an interview with the local 1PNZ news portal. "However, I want to protect my compatriots Anna and Aleksei Kuznetsov. Human memory is imperfect.... Can you imagine how many books you can read in seven years? How many of them can be scientific? In this time anyone of us could change their mind and worldview by 180 degrees."

Popadeva offered to conduct a new interview with Kuznetsova, noting the importance of her new position guaranteeing a precise account of the conversation. Popadeva concluded by saying: "Lying, it is a great sin for anyone."

The extent to which Kuznetsova's position has changed over the last seven years has been of little importance to many on Russian social media.

"Telegony of womb cells: do not forget, do not forgive!" tweeted financial analyst Slava Rabinovich.

"In the U.S., they're presenting the new iPhone, and we have telegony and a womb with wavelength memory," tweeted another user.

​Amid the uproar, Pavel Chikov, a prominent Russian lawyer and rights advocate, alleged a new potentially damaging revelation about Kuznetsova. In a tweet, he claimed that she was a member of a group on VKontakte titled: "HIV/AIDS -- the biggest mystification of the XX century."

"I'd like to remind you that there are more than one million HIV-positive children in Russia and there is no money for their treatment," Chikov added.

A partial screen grab of a tweet by the Ukrainian Security Service that appeared to ridicule allegations of illegal detentions and torture.

A partial screen grab of a tweet by the Ukrainian Security Service that appeared to ridicule allegations of illegal detentions and torture.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has posted images from a Hollywood blockbuster film on Twitter in an apparent effort to mock serious allegations led by two respected international rights watchdogs of secret detentions and torture.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has posted images from a Hollywood blockbuster film on Twitter in an apparent effort to mock serious allegations led by two respected international rights watchdogs of secret detentions and torture.

Three stills from the 2016 movie Suicide Squad -- in which jailed villains are coerced by a secret government agency into becoming covert antiheroes to save the world -- appeared in the September 1 tweet by the Security Service (@ServiceSsu) with a caption that read "Prisoners of SBU secret jail."

The post was subsequently deleted.

The message appeared to be aimed at bolstering the Ukrainian Security Service's denial of accusations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report in July titled "You Don't Exist" Arbitrary Detentions, Enforced Disappearances, And Torture In Eastern Ukraine.

Those groups also sent a letter to Ukrainian officials dated August 23 citing the cases of 12 men and one woman who they said were released in July and August from "abduction-style" custody in Kharkiv. More such individuals are believed to remain incommunicado in custody.

The report claims that, in addition to Kharkiv, there are at least three more such "informal detention sites" in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Kramatorsk, Izyum, and Mariupol.

'Pretrial Investigation Center'

Amnesty International and HRW interviewed two men allegedly kept in SBU captivity since December 2014. Both men said they were abducted from their homes, tortured, and forced to confess to being informants for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military has been fighting Russia-backed fighters since early 2014, when Russian troops occupied Crimea ahead of the peninsula's annexation and armed fighters led efforts to reject Kyiv's authority. Swaths of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions remain outside central government control.

Ukrainian authorities deny the existence of any secret jails.

The Kharkiv location said to house a secret site instead houses a "pretrial investigation center," SBU chief of staff Oleksandr Tkachuk said, according to the BBC's Ukrainian Service.

"The fact that many interrogations take place in this building means that many detainees have been in this building, and it is often accused of being a secret jail of the SBU," Tkachuk said.

When asked directly if such secret jails may exist in Ukraine, Tkachuk said: "Nothing is impossible in life, unfortunately. For now, we say that we will carefully check this information."

The joint report by the rights groups also accuses Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine of illegally imprisoning, abusing, and torturing people who live on the territory they control.

More than 9,500 civilians have died so far in the conflict, and international efforts to broker a peace have so far failed.

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About This Blog

Using regional media and the reporting of Current Time TV's wide network of correspondents, Anna Shamanska will tell stories about people and society you are unlikely to read anywhere else.

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