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.