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Husband of Russian social media star goes to war to settle her tax debt

Russian blogger Yelena Blinovskaya and husband Alexei Blinovsky on Instagram
Yelena Blinovskaya and Alexei Blinovsky in happier times shared on her Instagram account.

I'm confident that the hubby loves me. But does he love me enough to head off to war?

I don't ever want to find out that answer for many reasons, including the "what the what?" follow-up questions it would raise.

But that startling scenario just played out in Russia.

And yes, it involves taxes.

Influencer tax evasion charges: Yelena Blinovskaya, a self-help coach and Instagram influencer, was arrested at the Russian-Belarus border in April 2023 for allegedly trying to flee her native country to avoid paying a tax bill of 918 million rubles ($9.87 million U.S. dollars at current conversion rates).

Russian officials contend that from 2019 through 2021, the former beauty queen underreported and laundered her online earnings.

But rather than let his wife remain in jail, possibly for as long as 16 years, Alexei Blinovsky apparently made a momentous decision to gain Blinovskaya's freedom. Blinovsky joined the Russian military and headed off to fight in the Ukraine war.

"On Tuesday [April 16, 2024], Blinovsky, who helped run his wife's self-help business, was captured on film sipping tea alongside fellow soldiers near the frontline with Ukraine, trading his customary designer attire for khaki fatigues," according to The Guardian.

Trading conscription for freedom: While Blinovsky's decision was dramatic, the United Kingdom newspaper notes that is part of a trend "wherein joining the fighting in Ukraine serves as a get-out-of-jail card for those deemed to have wronged the Kremlin."

Media reports are full of accounts of hardened Russian criminals released in order to serve in the military's longer-than-expected effort to take over Ukraine.

However, says The Guardian, the Blinovskaya-Blinovsky case is the first known instance where a person has volunteered for the war in order to save a family member from time behind bars.

All outcomes still uncertain: Will it work? Will Blinovsky's sacrifice save his wife from hard time? Or will Blinovskaya end up imprisoned anyway, as some Russians argue she should?

And what about Blinovsky's new and dangerous situation? Will he return to her uninjured? Or at all?

Regardless of what ultimately happens, the circumstances — love, war, money, crime, powerful officials — are the makings of a classic Russian tragic romance novel.

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