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Putin offers to defend Santa in legal battle

The Russian President said he has good relations with Father Christmas and offered the bearded gift-giver free legal advice.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hopes Santa will bring his countrymen everything they want this year, and weighed in on a case brought against him by a lawyer who says he has never received the presents he hoped for.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday as part of his annual end-of-year press conference, Putin was asked to comment on a lawsuit being brought by Igor Mirzoev, a 37-year-old lawyer from the president’s hometown of St. Petersburg. Mirzoev complained that Father Christmas has brought him sub-standard gifts for the past two decades, and is demanding 23 gifts as well as 10 million rubles ($136,000) in damages.

“He is a lawyer from St. Petersburg? I’m also a lawyer from St. Petersburg, so there’s some coincidence – we have similar backgrounds,” Putin said. “Since I am a lawyer as well, I can play the role of Santa’s defense counsel and remind the plaintiff that Father Christmas only gives presents to good boys and girls, so he should review his performance and behavior, and maybe find the flaws that could have been a barrier to him getting his gifts.”

“My relationship with Santa has been really positive, and I really thank him for being in the position I’m in and able to talk to you. I really appreciate the support of the Russian people, and I hope that Father Christmas will be with us all, not just with gifts, but will help us to reach our goals – and that applies to Russian people and the nation as a whole.”

Mirzoev’s lawsuit names as a defendant the operators of ‘Santa Claus’ Homeland’, an entertainment complex in the Central Russian town of Veliky Ustug, which bills itself as the official residence of Father Christmas. However, local officials told business daily RBK that the paperwork has not yet been lodged and a judge is yet to give the go-ahead for the case to be heard. The firm was established in 1998, and the lawyer insists he should receive damages for every year since then.

In an interview with Moscow’s Komsomolskaya Pravda earlier this week, Mirzoev said that “in childhood, my relationship with Santa Claus was fine – every year I found gifts under the tree. However, since I started growing up, since about 1998, I stopped finding presents.” The restitution he is seeking apparently includes a new apartment, a car, a country home, and a trip around the world, in addition to a boost to his investment portfolio.

Asked whether he was worried about bankrupting Santa at the expense of children eagerly awaiting gifts, the lawyer said only that “he is a magician, he can find resources for everyone’s desires. I think Father Christmas will cope – I still believe in him and I hope he will rehabilitate himself in my eyes.” Mirzoev reportedly attempted to sue Santa at the beginning of the year after another disappointing haul, and was apparently told to seek psychological help.

Santa Claus, known as ‘Father Frost’ or ‘Ded Moroz’ in Russia, brings children gifts not on Christmas Day, as in the West, but on New Year, the primary day of festive celebration in Russia.

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