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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Olympic Mascot Lands in a New Feud

gazetaThe Cheburashka toys sell for 50 euros.
Children's author Eduard Uspensky, the creator of the beloved Cheburashka character, has fired off an angry letter to the Russian Olympic Committee and a fashion retailer after Cheburashka soft toys wearing Olympics outfits hit Moscow store shelves for 50 euros (1,800 rubles, or $62) apiece.

Cheburashka, who resembles a teddy bear with the ears of an Indian elephant, is the official mascot of the Russian Olympic team at the 2004 Athens Games. Uspensky, who owns the Cheburashka trademark, signed a noncommercial agreement authorizing the team's use of Cheburashka's likeness.

But Uspensky said by telephone Monday that he never gave permission for anyone to profit on the use of his creation.

The controversy comes less than a week after more than 40 cartoonists demanded an apology from Uspensky and the Olympic committee for picking Cheburashka as the Olympic team's mascot without first consulting with Leonid Shvartsman, the artist who gave a face to Uspensky's literary creation.

Uspensky last week sent a withering letter to the Olympic committee and Bosco Sport, the fashion retailer behind the Olympic costume whose idea it was to use Cheburashka as a mascot, asking why the noncommercial deal had been broken.

"To our great surprise the mascot is selling in GUM, Passazh and Bosco Sport for the price of 50 euros," Uspensky wrote in the letter, which was published in Novaya Gazeta on Monday. "Why has commercialism begun? Are you perhaps collecting money as prizes for athletes or as presents for sports veterans?"

The letter goes on: "What is surprising is that the Cheburashka without a sports costume costs 300 rubles but in a sports costume costs 50 euros. Does that red T-shirt cost 1,490 rubles?"

In an interview with the newspaper Gazeta last month, Uspensky said that "the Olympic committee will buy the toys and hand them out as gifts, not sell them."

Bosco di Ciliegi, the parent company of Bosco Sport, said Tuesday that its president, Mikhail Kousnirovitch, had sent a private reply to Uspensky.

"We don't think it is right to discuss this case in public," Bosco spokeswoman Olga Yudkis said.

The Olympic committee had no comment about the letter.

Uspensky has vigorously defended his ownership rights to Cheburashka's name and likeness in the past. Several years ago he threatened legal action over what he said was the unauthorized use of Cheburashka in Japan, where the animal has a cult following. Uspensky wrote the 1966 book that went on to inspire a series of popular animated films starring Shvartsman's depiction of Cheburashka, which could be considered Russia's answer to Mickey Mouse.