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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Red Star Spoof Cites Ivanov: Show More Tolerance of Gays

Unknown pranksters have published and distributed a spoof issue of the military's official daily, Krasnaya Zvezda, or Red Star, that quotes Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying that commanders should be more tolerant toward gay servicemen.

The spoof Red Star quotes Ivanov -- who is widely known for his conservative, hawkish views -- as saying that homophobia is a "relic of the Soviet past" and that "weeding out" gay conscripts would "directly undermine the defense capabilities of the country."

"People in ancient times believed that an army is strong when warriors love each other," the spoof report, published Thursday, cites Ivanov as saying.

The parody "horrified" Red Star's editors and has prompted an official inquiry from the Defense Ministry, Izvestia reported Saturday.

Izvestia said the publication could have been an attempt to discredit Ivanov in the wake of the Cabinet shake-up and before the pending reshuffle of the armed forces' top brass.

The spoof issue was delivered to "virtually all" of the military units and hospitals located in Moscow on Friday, Izvestia reported.

The pranksters also put up a web site that contains the interview, as well as original news items from the official Red Star web site.

The print version of the fake Red Star is smaller than the real thing, and names staff members in the masthead that no longer work on the paper.

This is not the first time Red Star has fallen victim to a prank, as deputy editor Alexander Kovalyov told Izvestia that Chechen rebels also faked at least one issue of Red Star. A group of dissidents put out a fake issue during the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan.

Calls to the Defense Ministry went unanswered Sunday, as did calls and e-mails to a Mstislav Gorbatenko, listed as the owner of the prank web site.