MOSCOW -- Natalya Poklonskaya, one of Crimea's deputies in Russia's State Duma, has claimed that a bust of Tsar Nicholas II located in the annexed peninsula wept tears on the centennial of his abdication of power.
And the Internet is laughing.
Poklonskaya made the claim on March 3 on Tsargrad TV, a channel financed by Konstantin Malofeyev, a wealthy Russian Orthodox believer and noted nationalist. She said she had been informed of the "miracle" by colleagues in Crimea, where she served as prosecutor under the Moscow-imposed government after the Ukrainian peninsula was annexed by Russia in 2014.
She noted the significance of the timing, with Russia marking 100 years since the tsar abdicated power following the February Revolution. The monarch was executed along with his entire family in 1918 by the Bolsheviks, who by then had seized power with their own coup.
"It's a miracle that no scientists, no one can explain," she said. "And this is the 100th anniversary! The statesman is helping us -- after they all died so that we could make Russia prosperous and great."
Poklonskaya, currently a deputy in the Russian State Duma, leaped to prominence during the Kremlin's seizure of her native Crimea and has carved out a reputation as an outspoken monarchist. She has repeatedly venerated Nicholas II in public and recently sought the ban of a feature film due for release in autumn that depicts the young prince's love affair with a beautiful, teenage ballerina before he ascended to the throne.
Nicholas II, his wife, and children were canonized after the collapse of the Soviet Union by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.
Although some pro-Kremlin, albeit bemused, observers offered support following Poklonskaya's comment, the Russian Orthodox Church refused to be drawn into the story. Spokesman Vakhtang Kipshidze simply told Govorit Moskva radio: "You can say that we declined to comment."
But online the mood was more playful. A volley of social-network users suddenly reported seeing holy tears rolling down the cheeks of Lenin statues, a Stalin bust, and even the nose of Marshall Zhukov's mounted horse near Red Square. One claimed smoke had emanated from a picture of Bob Marley.
Another Facebook user posted a picture of a Stalin bust crying tears of blood:
Meanwhile a Twitter user claimed that his Lenin bust was weeping.
"Wow! My little bust of Lenin has wept holy tears, comrades! I touched it and now my back has stopped hurting…. I'm in shock…."
"Closing the topic. The 'Crocodile' magazine, circa 1970," wrote yet another Facebook user, posting a cartoon with the caption: "-- Lord, not all at once!"
The bust of Nicholas II is located on the territory of a chapel dedicated to the tsar and his family and was opened by Poklonskaya in October 2016. The independent, investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta went to the scene of the purported miracle on March 4, interviewing a man called Aleksei who oversees the chapel, and who gave a confused account.
Aleksei said the incident happened on March 3 and that it had been first noticed by Poklonskaya herself. He grew tense when asked by the newspaper's correspondent how she had been able to notice it first, considering she was in Moscow at the time.
Aleksei answered simply: "Natalya Vladimirovna felt it. You didn't. Not everyone is ready to feel divine grace."
'Naive, Simple Belief'
Sergei Markov, a former United Russia lawmaker and pro-Kremlin commentator, came to Poklonskaya's defense, asserting that she was actually being mocked online for supporting the Crimea annexation -- and not actually for her claim about the holy tears, which he admitted he found unconvincing.
"She is being baited not for her words today, but for her past actions -- that is to say, the Crimea affair. I don't believe in the weeping bust of the emperor, for this is pointless. But she believes. And her belief in this is naive, simple, but also holy, direct, almost childish."
Others entertained theories of why Poklonskaya had made a comment that was so likely to draw ire and ridicule.
Some on Twitter suggested that Poklonskaya had been wheeled out to distract attention from opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's recently published investigation in which he claimed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is tied to huge wealth and property.
As one Twitter user put it:
"--The investigation about Dimon [Medvedev's nickname] is out, ******. What shall we do?
-- Bring out Poklonskaya,"