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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tatu Soars to Top of the British Pop Charts

Tatu.ruYulia Volkova, left, and Lena Katina
Alla Pugachyova couldn't do it. Neither could her husband Filipp Kirkorov nor rock legend Boris Grebenshchikov.

But two teenage girls with a penchant for kissing each other have succeeded where the cream of Russian rock and pop has failed: They have crossed over to the West.

Lena Katina, 17, and Yulia Volkova, 18, of the pop duo Tatu became the first Russian group to soar to No. 1 on the British pop charts over the weekend with the song "All the Things She Said."

But the teenagers have also stirred up a storm, with critics accusing them of targeting pedophiles with songs and videos that play on their supposed lesbian relationship.

The pair has courted controversy since they first rose to fame in Russia in 2000 at the ages of 15 and 16. Dressed in short school uniforms, they sang of their love for each other and pranced around in videos that always seemed to show them drenched in water and revealing their underwear.

The group's image has been carefully crafted by manager and former child psychologist Ivan Shapovalov, who found the two girls after advertising in a Russian newspaper for singers for a new pop group.

Shapovalov, with an eye out for publicity, said Monday that he came up with the idea for the group after visiting pornographic web sites and said Tatu is "underage sex entertainment."

"If it's illegal, let's go to court and we will meet and discuss it," Shapovalov said in an interview, waving a Russian news report about British pedophilia accusations.

Volkova said Tatu was an attempt to break away from mainstream pop.

"We wanted to do something original, to be different from everyone else," she said in a 2001 interview.

"Before this kind of love was forbidden, but those people are just like us. Sometimes I even think that with Yulia, I feel more than friendship," Katina said.

Songs such as "Ya Soshla s Uma," or "I've Lost My Mind" and "Nas Ne Dogonyat," or "They Won't Catch Us," were huge hits in Russia. The lyrics to "Ya Soshla s Uma" include "I've gone mad/ I need her."

At their concerts, the teenagers kiss each other on stage -- although it must be said that they kiss as passionately as two aunts -- and it was let slip that on tour they share the same bed. Even the name of the band is reportedly short for the phrase "This girl loves the other."

Creator Shapovalov has not been so keen to let the world know that the pair have boyfriends.

One of the composers of their music, Alexander Voitinsky, dismissed Tatu as a marketing ploy. "It is marketing, not music," he said in a telephone interview Monday. "It's an idea that's universal: sex, drugs, etc."

No one is interested in their music, he said, complaining that some of his lyrics have been made to sound more lesbian than he had intended.

"As an artist, I'm not interested," he said.

After their success in Russia, Tatu released an English version of their first album called "200 Km/H in the Wrong Lane." The album, produced by Trevor Horn, who also worked with the Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, features all the Russian hits plus the odd choice of a cover of The Smiths' "How Soon is Now."

Backed by an extensive tour program that has seen them play all over Europe, the group has notched up No. 1 hits across the continent and sold more than 1.5 million copies of their album.

In reaching No. 1 in Britain on Sunday, Tatu knocked Fame Academy's David Sneddon off the top spot. Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland rose to No. 2 with her solo single "Stole," while Sneddon's "Stop Living the Lie" fell to third place.

Tatu's rise in the charts is not amusing two British talk show hosts, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, who accuse the duo of promoting pedophilia.

"We are being told that these girls actually have underage lesbian sex in real life, and we are being told by their manager that he spotted a gap in the market -- a pedophile gap in the market," Madeley said in televised remarks.

"I think they should ban it, I think radio stations should take it upon themselves to ban it," he said.

Child protection group Kidscape called the group "pathetic" and said it was targeting "dirty old men."

Shapovalov defended the group. "More than a million of these 'dirty old men' have bought the single, and I think there is going to be a lot more," he said.

He said the only criticism has come from Britain and the United States.

Despite the controversy, music critics say Tatu fully deserves its success.

"Beneath the media-conscious pomp and circumstance is an album dripping with sugary pop sweetness," said.