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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Sold via Internet for a Mere $26K




The world found out this week exactly how much it costs to buy a Boris Yeltsin: $26,760.


That was the winning price for one of the red-faced, potato-nosed rubber puppets from "Kukly," NTV television's political satire show, that emerged from 60 minutes of furious public bidding on molotok.ru, a new Russian-language Internet auction web site.


"I've never made so much loot in such a short time in my life," the Yeltsin puppet remarked in his trademark nasal whine as he watched the price on his head rise in the company of champagne-sipping, canap?-munching pop stars, cultural icons and journalists at a reception Thursday night at Paparazzi restaurant.


"Don't tell Berezovsky," he added.


Though a certain B. B. did put up a bid - sparking speculation that the political puppet master Boris Berezovsky was out to buy himself another toy - B. B. was eventually outbid by a person based offshore and using the pseudonym pharut.


Molotok.ru is trying to establish pharut's identity, said Yulia Sigunova, a spokeswoman for netBridge, an investment company that helped establish molotok.ru. For now, all that is known is that pharut's bid came from a U.S. based e-mail address.


Yeltsin's puppet was the top lot at an auction of celebrity memorabilia organized as a stunt to inform the world of the existence of molotok.ru - a massive Internet flea market developed by CompTek, the company that developed Yandex search engine.


Molotok.ru works along the lines of the U.S.-based eBay.com, the most famous Internet auction site: Anonymous sellers put up an item for sale and an opening bid, and anonymous buyers start bidding.


On Friday, molotok.ru (an auctioneer's gavel is in Russian a molotok) contained more than 5,000 offers of goods, services and property. Molotok.ru's estimate of the value of all the goods was more than $15 million. An offer of a factory in Austria with a starting price of $1 million is due to go up soon.


Once bidding has been closed and a final bid accepted, molotok.ru simply puts the buyer and seller in touch. From then on, it is up to those two to follow through with the exchange. Users can rate other users, and for users who get too many complaints from their fellows, say, for reneging on deals, molotok.ru will track down their e-mail address and boot them from trading.


Otherwise molotok.ru accepts no responsibility.


Sigunova said molotok.ru was considering an electronic payment system. That would let transactions be handled by credit card online and settled immediately, provide more control over delivery of goods and payments and also make it feasible for molotok.ru to take a cut of the sales.


For now, CompTek and netBridge say the site's revenues come primarily from selling ad space. Sigunova said the site features 110,000 pages where advertisers can place information.


Molotok.ru won't sell just anything. Drugs, body parts, most weapons and unlicensed food and alcohol products are forbidden from trade, and the site warns users that they bear responsibility for attempting to sell illegally acquired goods.


Other dubious items also tend to get removed - as in the case of a man who put up his wife's underpants for sale, with a starting bid of $30. The offer lasted for a few minutes before molotok.ru staff noticed it and removed it, Sigunova said.


Antiques and collectors items have been the biggest movers on the auction and have included some stunning offers - such as a 16th-century icon that was for sale Friday.


The celebrity items have also done well. NTV, which airs "Kukly" after its Sunday night news magazine, set an opening price of $4,600. In an hour, it increased nearly sixfold.


The first Yeltsin puppet - out of three eventually ordered for "Kukly" - cost around $6,000, said NTV spokeswoman Tatyana Blinova. One puppet was stolen a few years ago, and NTV has kept one in reserve, Blinova said, adding there was "no political significance" to the sale of the Yeltsin puppet.


Blinova said the puppet was simply getting worn, "so we decided we could set the price a little bit lower."


After the Yeltsin doll, the most popular celebrity lot Thursday night appeared to be an offer of three hours' bowling with the full complement of popular grunge band Nogu Svelo! at their favorite venue, B-69. That lot rose in a matter of hours from $1 to $125. Bids on that lot close Thursday.


Cosmonaut Georgy Grechko put up the ballpoint pen he carried into space and back, but, suffering a pang of regret at the idea of parting with the pen, tried to put in a bid of $200 to top the final bid of $184. He was too late.


Some of the celebrity auctions are still going on. The Yugoslav-made typewriter on which police detective novelist Alexandra Marinina first wrote the legendary words, "Kamenskaya woke up and thought ..." was selling at $112 Friday afternoon. The amateur videocamera used by Dmitry Dibrov to film the "Anthropology" television series was going for $510.


Other celebrities are having less luck selling themselves and their stuff on molotok.ru.


No one appeared willing to pay $2,500 for Andrei Makarevich's sleek silver Fender, nor $1,000 for a guitar offered by "Russia's Santana," Viktor Zinchuk, nor $100 for the trademark red bow tie of fashion guru Vyacheslav Zaitsev.


Handsome pop crooner Oleg Nesterov offered the highest bidder - "ideally, a woman" - a two-hour Sunday morning walk through Izmailovsky Park with him and his dog Hilda.


But by Friday afternoon, bids were up only $2 on his starting price of $20 - one of them put in by someone with the pseudonym "Lunatic."