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Letter to Medvedev nets guinea pig reward for Russian teen

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MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) - A teenage girl from southern Russia recently found herself at the centre of a row involving guinea pigs and the official website of the Russian president, the country's media reported.

The story began when 13-year-old Nastya Ivliyeva, from the village of Kalitvensky in the Rostov Region, wrote to the official website of President Dmitry Medvedev to ask for a second guinea pig to go with the one she already had.

That was when what Russian media have described as the "theater of the absurd" began.

Local officials subsequently found out about the letter and went to the girl's school, where she was called to the head teacher's office and severely scolded. Her parents were also summoned and censured for bringing up a child who would even dream of disturbing the president with such a trifling matter. The local Pik newspaper also reported that Nastya was forced to write a letter publically retracting her request.

Staff at the local paper then decided to buy her a guinea pig, and a local shop donated a cage.

However, the story did not end there. The girl's parents, furious with the way they and their daughter had been treated, wrote a second letter to the president that evening, complaining about the actions of the local officials.

The letter had the desired result. According to a source quoted by various media outlets, the next day, within hours of the "presidential reply" to the letter of complaint, local officials were outside Nastya's flat holding two guinea pigs and a cage.

Commenting on the incident to the Regnum news agency, the chairman of the committee on youth affairs for the Rostov Region said that it was an indication of the lack of empathy displayed by local authorities towards "the girl, young people and the leaders of social organizations."

"This is an indication of the ineffectiveness of the authorities in the sphere of human relations," Sergei Chyuev said.

The unusual request is thought to have been inspired by the case of a girl from Siberia who asked for and received a dress, as well as a trip to Moscow, from Vladimir Putin after taking part in the prime minister's televised question-and-answer session with the public late last year.

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