An unusual accusation

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In Ilf and Petrov's well-known comedy "The Twelve Chairs," a character named Yelena Stanislavovna is mixed up in the antics of the plot. Before the Revolution she was an actress; after, she earned money reading people's fortunes in cards.

Yelena Stanislavovna is also the name of the editor-in-chief of Vogue Russia – Yelena Stanislavovna Doletskaya. And her life has also taken a lot of twists and turns leading up to her position as the chief commentator on Russian fashion.

No stranger to the spotlight and fame, Doletskaya now finds herself in a spotlight of a different kind. She is accused of having stolen an apartment, complete with twelve chairs and a lot of objets d'art.

The apartment in question, where many a famous party has been hosted and the Russian style and interior of which is much admired by Russians and foreigners alike, is virtually Doletskaya's trademark.

She fondly talks about the apartment and her work in its renovation and restoration in fashion and interior design magazines. But this is not exactly the whole truth, according to a lawsuit filed by the well-known foreign journalist, John Helmer, in a Moscow municipal court.

Having already arrested the apartment, Judge Lyudmila Bykovskaya of the municipal court will decide Feb. 7 whether the apartment really belongs to Doletskaya. According to case files, Helmer claims to have bought it in 1993 and paid for renovating it in the Russian style, along with all the art objects and furnishings.

How, then, the apartment ended up being in Doletskaya's name is a mystery to Helmer, who admits that he and Doletskaya were lovers for many years and lived together in the apartment. "When we broke up, I gave her money to renovate a country cottage outside Moscow," Helmer says. "She took the money and locked me out of the apartment. I tried to settle the issue amicably and quietly, given her very public profile, but was shocked to find that the apartment was not in my name." Helmer claims to have proof of payments he made for the apartment.

Doletskaya says that she has taken legal advice and plans to file a defence. In her opinion it is a dispute that can only be settled by a court.

It is not the first time that Doletskaya has found herself involved in a dispute over a Moscow apartment. In 1993, she went to court to overturn her father's will in order to take possession of one of the apartments the famous Soviet surgeon left to his second wife. Doletskaya lost.

If Helmer wins the case, it could prove to be a serious embarrassment for the Conde Nast group. The apartment in question has played a rather important role in Doletskaya's career and the development of her personal image, as well the image of the magazine she directs. It remains to be seen whether Helmer can deprive her of that image and the property – the property and twelve chairs, that is.