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???Litvinenko’s Murder ??? They Wanted to Give Up a Suspect for $7,000.???

October 12, 2009


This one is almost two years old, but I missed it the first time around and it’s pretty fascinating so here it is.

Back at the end of 2007, there was a Louis Vuitton ad making the rounds in New York and other magazines.  The ad showed ex-Soviet #1 Mikhail Gorbachev sitting in the back of a limo driving along remnants of the Berlin Wall with a piece of LV luggage on the seat next to him.  What makes the image really curious is that the bag is open and a magazine can be seen which, when blown up, features a headline reading “???????????????? ????????????????????—???????????????????????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???? $7000”–which translates* to “Litvinenko’s Murder—They Wanted to Give Up a Suspect for $7,000.”  Litvinenko being the Russian ex-spy who was polonium’d to death by tainted sushi.  By Vladimir Putin, he said on his deathbed.  What does it mean?  Beats the hell out of me.  But it’s wildly fascinating.  Not least of all because it’s bringing Louis Vuitton, as well as photographer Annie Leibovitz and ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, plenty of attention (which is exactly the purpose of an ad, no?).  O&M claim that someone picked up a couple Russian mags for the shoot, but as Robert Passikoff, president of a brand research consultancy, Brand Keys, said: “In an industry where sesame seeds are hand-placed on a hamburger bun by food technicians before a shot, one would reasonably assume that this was not something that happened by chance.”

So, is Gorbachev privy to this?  Is he putting his opinion of the current regime out for all to see?  Or did he simply never glance at the magazine and it’s all a ruse by Ogilvy & Mather for publicity?  Or are we to believe what everyone says and it’s a complete and utter coincidence?

And even without this controversy, the photo is still plenty fascinating.  I’d love to know what Gorbatchev was thinking during that drive.

*Google translates it as “The murder of Litvinenko – the suspect wanted to surrender for $ 7000.” However, the word for suspect is given in the accusative case, making it the object of the verb as opposed to the subject.  Further, the verb “wanted” is given in its plural form, implying a “They” (??????, in Russian) preceding it.  So changing the word order and adding this implied “they” helps Google along to the correct translation: ???????????????? ???????????????????? – ?????? ???????????? ???????????????????????????? ?????????? ???? $7000


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