- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

Martial Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin rolled out the red carpet for Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and a score of grizzled martial arts fighters in St. Petersburg, Russia’s state-run television reported yesterday.

Mr. Putin treated the fighters to tea and cakes at the chandelier-lined hall of the Konstantinovsky Palace following a mixed martial arts contest.

Dubbed “Russia versus America,” Saturday’s contest was won by Russian champion Fedor Yemelyanenko who defeated U.S. rival Matt “The Law” Lindland.

Television footage showed Mr. Putin, a judo enthusiast, dressed entirely in black and with no tie, greeting Mr. Van Damme in the sports hall.

The ultra-violent fights were interspersed with dancing by women in revealing red dresses. Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, a friend of Mr. Putin’s, was also reported to be in the audience.

Mr. Putin was shown on Rossiya television embracing Mr. Yemelyanenko after his fight and later hosting him at the tea party where cupcakes were served on a candlelit table.

“You have a very tough sport, but it is not without dignity and respect toward your partner,” Mr. Putin said. “Brave people are in this sport.”

Mr. Van Damme, the star of a string of martial arts films, described the occasion as an honor, Vesti television reported.

“I know that officials can give speeches, but what the president just said was not a political speech, but that of a person speaking from the heart,” he said, according to a Russian translation.

Stern sues

Howard K. Stern, the former attorney and companion of Anna Nicole Smith, filed a slander lawsuit Friday against an attorney for Miss Smith’s estranged mother who has suggested Mr. Stern was involved in Miss Smith’s death.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla., also accuses attorney John O’Quinn of invasion of privacy and seeks unspecified damages.

Mr. O’Quinn is representing Miss Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, in a custody battle over Miss Smith’s baby.

Miss Smith died in February at age 39 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. The medical examiner in the case ruled her death an accidental drug overdose.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. O’Quinn appeared on several national television shows in which he suggested Mr. Stern murdered Miss Smith. During an interview in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Mr. O’Quinn told Fox News Show’s Greta Van Susteren that Mrs. Arthur believed Mr. Stern had murdered her daughter and that Mr. O’Quinn agreed with her. Mr. O’Quinn also suggested on MSNBC that Mr. Stern had ulterior motives for wanting to see Miss Smith’s will days before she died.

“The public airwaves should never be used to promote personal agendas or vendettas,” Mr. Stern’s attorneys L. Lin Wood said in a statement issued Friday.

The lawsuit came days after a DNA specialist revealed Miss Smith’s former boyfriend, Los Angeles photographer Larry Birkhead, was the father of Miss Smith’s baby, not Mr. Stern. Mr. Stern has said he would not fight to retain custody of 7-month-old Dannielynn. But Mrs. Arthur is seeking visitation rights.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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