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Russia refuses a B.O. berth for ‘Borat’

Licensing body says pic is offensive

MOSCOW — “Borat’s” prospects for release in Kazakhstan were always close to nil — but in Russia, authorities went further than expected when they banned the pic Wednesday.

Move is thought to mark the first time that Russia’s Federal Agency for Culture & Cinematography has banned a nonpornographic movie.

“The film contains material that some viewers may consider offensive to certain nationalities and religions,” Yury Vasyuchkov of the licensing body was quoted as saying in local press.

“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” has drawn repeated objections from the Kazakh government for portraying the country as backward.

(Both former Soviet republics, Russia and Kazakhstan now are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States and share a 4,300-mile border.)

The satire had been slated for release Nov. 30, and the ban surprised local distributor Gemini, a subsid of 20th Century Fox in Russia. A month ago, however, Gemini spokesman Alexander Kovalenko told Daily Variety that the company was still mulling whether to release the film.

Distribs have the option to appeal the licensing decision, though that likely would prove fruitless.

“There was some kind of explanation that the movie might create tension between races and nationalities because of its far-from-simple humor,” Gemini’s Nikolai Vorunkov told local press, adding “Borat” is now unlikely to open before Jan. 1 if at all.

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