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The BBC's Jane Ball reports
"The former air force captain made a flamboyant entrance into the ring"
 real 28k

Monday, 17 April, 2000, 02:09 GMT 03:09 UK
Russian bullfighter survives debut
Karpukhin and the bull
Mr Karpukhin killed the bull but was savaged by a critical public
By Daniel Schweimler in Madrid

For the first time in the history of Spanish bullfighting, a Russian has appeared in the ring - and survived.

Roman Karpukhin killed his first bull on Sunday at Barcelona's Monumental bullring, fulfilling a long-held ambition and perhaps launching himself on the career of his dreams.



What a fight!

Roman Karpukhin

There have been more spectacular debuts in the bullfighting ring, but there have also been some spectacular failures.

Mr Karpukhin, a 33-year-old former captain in the Russian air force, said he was just happy to leave the ring unscathed to fight another day.

A spokeswoman at bullring said the world's only Russian bullfighter had performed reasonably well.

Critical acclaim

But some sections of the notoriously-critical crowd whistled and threw their cushions into the ring to show their disapproval as he thrust his sword into the young bull three times before killing the wounded animal with his knife.


Roman Karpukhin
A relieved Moscow matador

It is still too early to tell whether Mr Karpukhin will make it to the top in bullfighting. Few do.

But then few even make it as far as the matador from Moscow has.

He only came to Spain in 1997, and enrolled at the Catalonia bullfighting school just one year ago.

He said he left the Russian armed forces after the fall of communism because people had lost respect for the military.

Roman Karpukhin became a ballroom dancing teacher, but on a trip to Spain five years ago, fell in love with the country and with bullfighting.

He returned to Barcelona in 1997, and learnt Spanish while earning a living as a forklift truck driver.

He has already become something of a celebrity in Spain as the first Russian to break into the closed world of bullfighting.

But his nationality means nothing to his enemies - the many bulls he will now face if he chooses to pursue his new career on the arduous bullfighting circuit around Spain.

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