(Globalandmail) Moscow - Alexei Mitrofanov, deputy leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, says he cannot understand the ruckus over his dirty movie.

What's so wrong, he asks, about writing a film script that imagines a steamy rendezvous between a buxom woman named Yulia and a darkly handsome gentleman named Mikhail?

What does it matter if the porn star selected for the role of Yulia wears the same braided hairstyle as Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko? Or that she climbs into a Russian attack helicopter, zooms over the mountains along Georgia's northern border and makes love to someone who resembles Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili?

"How can they react like this when they haven't even seen the film?" said Mr. Mitrofanov, a senior member of the State Duma, or lower parliament, better-known for his extreme nationalist politics than his prowess as an author of sex films.

Ukraine and Georgia have voiced displeasure with Mr. Mitrofanov's side project, which is scheduled to start filming next week.

Rumours are circulating about possible retaliation by Ukrainian filmmakers, who are reportedly trying to cast a male porn star who resembles Russian President Vladimir Putin for a gay film.

It's the latest, and most bizarre, sign of tensions between Russia and the two former Soviet republics, which have drifted away from Moscow's influence after recent revolutions in both countries. Ukraine squabbled with Russia over energy prices, while Georgia demanded the closing of Russian military bases on its soil.
Despite the recent history, Mr. Mitrofanov seems hopeful that his 26-minute sex film, titled Yulia, will take foreign relations to new heights -- literally and figuratively.

"Political erotics are a new genre that I have discovered," he said. "The film is about politics. It makes a political statement, they don't just [have sex]."
The politician was vague about the film's message, but he dismissed any suggestion that he was trying to demean Mr. Saakashvili, 37, who will be played by an unnamed Armenian actor, or Ms. Tymoshenko, 44, whose role has been taken by a well-known porn actress, Elena Berkova.

Russian audiences are already intimately familiar with Ms. Berkova, who gained celebrity on the popular Dom-2 reality television show. She initially described herself as the 20-year-old director of a marriage agency, but was kicked off the show after revelations about her career as an adult-film star.

Ms. Berkova has reinvented herself as a musician, with a recording scheduled for release in the fall. Her producer, Alexander Valov, acknowledges that she signed on to Mr. Mitrofanov's project to generate publicity for the album.

It's still unclear whether Ms. Berkova intends to reprise her hard-core performances in the film; the politician has pushed for more graphic scenes, while Ms. Berkova's producer hopes for fewer. The film isn't intended for theatres in any case, with distribution directly to DVD, video, the Internet and possibly television.
A Black Shark helicopter will be rented for the filming, Mr. Valov said. The modern Russian attack helicopter is armoured against 12.7-millimetre bullets, which could be useful if Mr. Valov follows through on his intention to film the climactic love scene in the air above the Pankisi Gorge, an area still racked by battles between Chechen fighters and Russian security forces.

"You could be shot down by a rocket any time you cross that border, and this increases the thrill during the moment of sex," Mr. Valov said.

Temuri Grigalashvili, a spokesman for the Georgian President, wasn't particularly thrilled by the idea. "This is a cheap public-relations trick," he said.

"One should not do such things," said Nikolai Novosad, the first secretary of the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow. "A state politician cannot talk about another one in such a way."

Mr. Mitrofanov rejected the idea that he's creating propaganda.

"Is the film The Interpreter propaganda or big cinema?" he said. "Is the film JFK propaganda or big cinema? Why is it that in America these films are considered big cinema but films like this in Russia are considered propaganda? This is big cinema and I am a great master."

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