Toilet-paper 'Rasputin' riles Lithuania

Media derides mystic's influence on president

CNN/March 14, 2003

Vilnius, Lithuania -- Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas stirred up a media storm over his faith in a mystic who wraps people in toilet paper to cure their ills.

Paksas' claim to be a "believer" in mystic Lena Lolisvili has sparked uproar in the Catholic former Soviet country, which is sensitive about its image abroad after being invited to join the European Union and NATO in 2004.

Local media have dubbed Lolisvili Lithuania's "Rasputin," after the Siberian mystic who wielded influence over Russia's Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra in the early 1900s.

"Lithuania risks becoming the laughing stock of the world," its largest newspaper, Lietuvos Rytas, said Friday.

Lolisvili, an ethnic Georgian who claims God tells her the future and energizes toilet paper she then wraps around her patients, told Paksas in 1996 he would become president.

Paksas has said Lolisvili helped him when he was ill, but has never given details of his treatment.

She was a guest of honor at his inauguration last month, a move critics decried as a throwback to the dark ages.

"This is clearly the work of the devil," said Cardinal Audrys Backis.

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