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Miss Universe Fired, to Be Replaced by Runner-up
Miss Universe pageant officials have "fired" the reigning Miss Universe, Russian cop Oxana Fedorova, and will replace her with Miss Panama, the runner-up, a spokeswoman for the pageant said on Monday.

The raven-haired Fedorova, who delighted Russians when she was portrayed there as a sharp-shooting St. Petersburg police lieutenant in addition to being a beauty queen and post-graduate university student with a law degree, has returned home, the spokeswoman said.

Fedorova, who was chosen over 74 other candidates at the pageant in May, will be replaced by "crowd favorite" Justine Pasek of Panama, the spokeswoman said.

It marked the first time in the pageant's 52-year history that a Miss Universe has been stripped of her title, and Fedorova had been the first Miss Russia to win the crown.

Organizers of the pageant, which is co-owned by New York real estate mogul Donald Trump, scheduled a press conference for Tuesday in New York to announce the switch.

The spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the reasons for the change but a source close to the matter said that the green-eyed Fedorova had failed to carry out the responsibilities of Miss Universe.

"Basically, she was fired for not fulfilling her duties," the source said. "It's just like if you have a job to do. If you don't do your job you can get fired."

The source declined to comment on a report in the New York Post newspaper that officials were concerned that Fedorova might have "secretly" married her boyfriend, in violation of pageant rules, and could even be pregnant.


"It's too bad it didn't work out better with Oxana but our new Miss Universe is equally beautiful and she is a tremendous crowd pleaser," Trump told the Post. Trump's spokesman said he would not comment further until after the press conference.

The Post reported that Fedorova was expected to travel extensively and make personal appearances as part of her reign but refused to take part in a number of those assignments, including the 2002 Miss Teen USA Competition.

Fedorova was bestowed with the diamond- and pearl-encrusted crown on May 29 in Puerto Rico. In second place was Pasek, followed by Miss China, Ling Zhuo.

Fedorova's crowning touched off delirious celebration in her native country, where Russians reveled in their first Miss Universe and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said she was proof that "Russians can win in all kinds of competitions, starting with mathematics and Olympics, with young boys and girls, and all the way to beauty contests."

Russian television alternated footage of her erupting in radiant glory as she was crowned with shots of her looking chillingly elegant in standard-issue olive drab police uniform: black necktie, white shirt, mid-thigh skirt, dark tights and knee-high black leather boots.

The head of St. Petersburg's Interior Ministry Academy said he expected her to continue her law enforcement career in a country where police can make less than $100 a month, and added that she was due for a promotion to captain.

Fedorova, who also lists on her resume a law degree and a doctoral law thesis on civil law from the Russian Ministry of Interior University, said at the time that she was overjoyed to win the title and vowed to improve her English.

She won a year's salary, a wardrobe allowance, use of a New York apartment and travel and public engagements around the world that include fund-raising for AIDSresearch.

A show business perennial launched by a swimsuit company 51 years ago, the Miss Universe pageant draws an estimated global television audience of 600 million people in 176 countries.

(Xinhua News Agency September 24, 2002)

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