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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Kremlin uneasy at Putin's positive press
Russian President Vladimir Putin
"Bootlicking" coverage reportedly worries Putin aides

The Kremlin is alarmed by the level of praise and adulation heaped on Russian President Vladimir Putin by the state television, a popular Russian newspaper says.

The Kremlin spin doctors reportedly have told off the bosses of the two state-run national networks for "bootlicking which verges on sabotage".

The newspaper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, quotes a confidential source within the Kremlin who said the TV bosses were castigated for failing to strike the right balance in their coverage of the president.

The problem is not that the state television isn't supportive enough of Vladimir Putin, the spin doctors reportedly said. But the way it is done is reminiscent of the days of Leonid Brezhnev, a senile Soviet leader who was literally praised to death.

Former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev
Brezhnev died in 1982

One example singled out was last month's "Close Up" programme on RTR television, shot while Mr Putin was holidaying at a ski resort.

Such crude propaganda, the TV bosses were told, should stop immediately. Otherwise the viewers will turn off in droves.

But that is easier said than done, muses the paper.

To appear more balanced, the journalists of the state-run TV networks should be given at least some leeway to criticise the president.

But this may incur the Kremlin's wrath of another kind.

Private channels

The solution suggested by the TV bosses, the paper says, was to bring private channels in line with the state ones in their coverage of the president.

Naturally, the state channels look dull and complacent when compared to the private stations, which are free to criticise the powers that be.

But if every TV network is made to love the president, the state television bosses argued, the picture will be different.

Whether they managed to persuade the Kremlin spin doctors will transpire shortly when a previously shut down independent channel resumes its broadcasts under new management.


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