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Fighting For The Little Guy? Russian Kids Appeal To Their New Deputy, MMA Fighter Jeff Monson


Jeff Monson poses with his Russian passport in June.

Minnesota-born mixed-martial-arts (MMA) fighter Jeff Monson has had a colorful career in Russia in recent years.

In 2015, he applied for Russian citizenship, saying he felt "Russian in spirit." In 2016, he began hosting the program Monson TV on Russian state-run RT television.

This 2017 music video with Russia's The Allen Dulles Band speaks for itself.

In 2018, he received a Russian passport and, the same year, was elected as a town councilman in the Moscow suburb of Krasnogorsk. Monson ran from the purportedly right-centrist, ruling United Russia party, despite being a self-described Christian anarcho-communist with ties to the Communist Party of Russia.

Under Russian law, the American had to surrender his U.S. citizenship when he was elected to public office in Russia.

When he was sworn in as a councilman in Krasnogorsk, his acceptance speech in what can only be charitably described as "broken Russian" was widely mocked on social media.

So when locals in the Putilkovo district of Krasnogorsk wanted to get Monson's attention with their request for a recreation-and-sports center for their children, they decided the best approach would be to have the kids make their pitch to him in a video in English.

In phonetically challenged, sing-song English, the children point out that their district has no cultural center and nowhere to play sports.

"We want to have sport center, with dancing, boxing, pool," one child says.

In May, Putilkovo children prepared a similar video appeal -- in excellent Russian -- for President Vladimir Putin's annual Direct Line call-in question-and-answer program, but it was not used on the show and they did not receive any response.

There has so far been no response to the video for Monson. A spokeswoman for the councilman, who identified herself only as Yevgenia, told RFE/RL that Monson was out of the country until October 30 but that upon his return he planned to discuss the Putilkovo situation with his fellow councilmen. Monson has repeatedly expressed his support for children's athletics in Russia, she added.

Monson, 47, is a trained psychologist who took up mixed martial arts in 1997 and has accumulated a record of 61 wins, 26 losses, and one draw.

Although Putin handed Monson his Russian passport personally, the two men have a mixed history. In 2011, then-Prime Minister Putin was loudly and embarrassingly booed when he entered the ring to congratulate Russian mixed martial artist Fyodor Emelianenko on his victory over Monson in Moscow. Monson broke his leg in that defeat.

In a controversial interview with Britain's The Times newspaper in September, Monson said: "Putin is obscenely wealthy for what he's supposed to make as president of Russia. How did he get his wealth? Maybe he's got his hands in some...."

"I really hate it when people use terms like 'useful idiot' to describe me," Monson said in the interview with The Times. "I'm a smart guy. I know exactly what is going on. Of course the Kremlin is using me, or trying to use me. But I'm not holding back. I'm speaking my mind, even if there are consequences."

Days later, Monson claimed his words about Putin had been "taken out of context."

Robert Coalson contributed to this report
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    RFE/RL's Radio Svoboda is the leading international broadcaster in Russia. As Russia witnesses increasing control of the media by state authorities, Radio Svoboda has become a key forum for those who lack access to other means of free expression.

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