The editor of the Ukrainian version of Vogue has been suspended after texts under her name were found to have been partially plagiarised from Russian fashion commentators.
The incident has not only shocked Kiev’s beau monde but also fuelled angry rhetoric around the ongoing political crisis with Russia, which sanctioned more than 300 Ukrainian officials and cultural figures on Thursday.
The scandal kicked off earlier this week when the Kiev Fashion Lovers social media account noted that the first half of Olga Sushko’s June letter in Vogue Ukraine was copied almost word for word from a 2006 editor’s letter by Shakhri Amirkhanova in the Russian Harper’s Bazaar.
“If I could leave my body for a second and look at myself from the outside, I would immediately without the shadow of a doubt admit that the happiest girl in the world was standing before me,” began the 2006 letter.
Ms Sushko’s letter started in the same way but replaced “happiest” with “very happy”. The plagiarism continued for eight more sentences.
Kiev Fashion Lovers questioned whether Ms Sushko was in the right job. “Do you really take us all for fools?” it wrote.
In a post the next day, Ms Sushko apologised and claimed that she sometimes outsourced her editor’s letter to a trusted freelancer as she had a lot of work and could get stuck on the letter for “several days because of the big responsibility and stress”.
But social media users were already posting previous instances of plagiarism by the Vogue editor under the hashtag #Sushkogate.
Texts published by Ms Sushko copied major parts of articles by the fashion editor of the Russian newspaper Kommersant and a Russian GQ columnist, among others.
A paragraph in Ms Sushko’s description of the Hotel Ritz Madrid in a 2013 Kommersant weekend magazine article — “it burns and glows with gold bas-reliefs and multi-metre mosaic panneau …” — even appeared to have been partially lifted from a 2008 piece about the Le Meurice hotel in Paris.
Conde Nast International said on Wednesday it had suspended Ms Sushko while it conducted an internal investigation.
Vogue Ukraine is still largely written in Russian despite the government’s promotion of the Ukrainian language after Moscow annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The scandal made its way into international relations on Wednesday after Ukraine’s foreign minister tweeted that the “Russian MFA used to write texts for propaganda channels, now the channels write texts for the MFA!”
“Shakhri Amirkhanova used to write the editor’s letter for Harper’s Bazaar, now she’s been reprinted in Ukrainian Vogue under the name Olga Sushko. That’s a fact. What you’ve written is a fake,” retorted the Russian MFA Twitter account.
Following a decree by Vladimir Putin, Moscow blacklisted 322 Ukrainian citizens on Thursday in a response to Ukraine’s sanctions against Russians earlier this year.
They included former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, a frontrunner in the Ukrainian presidential election next year, and top officials like the interior and defence ministers, security service head and the general prosecutor.
Although president Petro Poroshenko wasn’t on the blacklist, his oldest son was.
The head of the national oil and gas company and several energy company directors were also banned from Russia, as was billionaire Viktor Pinchuk, whose $150,000 donation to Donald Trump’s foundation in 2015 is being investigated by Robert Mueller.
Other names on the sanctions list were puzzling, such as a children’s author who wrote books like How Hamster Looked for Friends and The Adventures of Boom the Fox Cub.
Yevgeny Karas, a well-known Kiev gallerist, said he believed he had been accidentally blacklisted in place of a leader of a nationalist organisation with the same name. This would prevent him from visiting relatives in Russia, he told Russian media.
Among the 68 businesses sanctioned by Russia were major companies in spheres ranging from energy to banking to media.