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Sunday, 2 April, 2000, 00:58 GMT 01:58 UK
Hat hunted off head
Russian dolls
Russian leaders featured in many spoof stories
The Moscow Times reported the alarming case of a woman whose hat was swiped by an eagle.

Irina Vorobyova (or sparrow) was shopping when she felt a blow to her head and her vision suddenly obscured by feathers.

The paper informed readers that her $300 mink fur hat flew off into the grey winter sunset.

"I mean, where do you turn when your hat has literally been hunted off your head?" asked the unfortunate victim.

Newspapers, TV and radio in Russia and Poland entered into the spirit of April Fool's Day with other spirited stories, the truth of which could not be immediately verified.

Russian Ekho Moskvy radio said it had learned that rehearsals were in full swing for a production of Mussorgsky's operatic drama of political upheaval, Boris Godunov, with the lead role to be taken by the newly-retired Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

In case of a problem with security, the head of Yeltsin's bodyguards would also always be on the stage next to his master - in the role of Tsar's footman

The head of Moscow's internationally-renowned Taganka theatre, Yuriy Lyubimov, was quoted as saying he could "only dream about" having acquired the services of "such an actor with his great charisma and extraordinary temper, as well as his colossal life experience".

In case of a problem with security, the head of Yeltsin's bodyguards would also always be on the stage next to his master - in the role of Tsar's footman.

Double agent?

Staying with a political theme, Izvestiya newspaper published an investigation into President-elect Vladimir Putin's earlier career in the KGB in Germany.
Vladimir Putin
Putin the president-elect ... or the spy?
Research had shown, the paper said, that Mr Putin the spy was a different man entirely from Mr Putin the president-elect.

The former was now said to be living happily in Moscow as an installer of distillery equipment.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta, meanwhile, had bad news for Moscow commuters with news that the city's public transport authority had introduced a special ticket for standing passengers.

The 1 April edition of Nezavisimaya Gazeta promised its readers, somewhat implausibly, that if they could spot all 10 of the day's spoofs in the paper, they could win $100.

Not so funny

But hoaxers did manage to upset Russia's Fuel and Energy Ministry. Officials there were forced to deny reports that Russia and Norway had cut a preliminary deal to set up an Independent Union of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to be known as IPEC.

"This joke wouldn't be a bad one if the report that was spread among the media hadn't been written on an official ministry letterhead and hadn't been signed by its press service. In view of this, it looks like an attempt at deliberate misinformation," an official said.

Developments in the popular theatre and on public transport were also on the day's news agenda in Poland.

This joke wouldn't be a bad one if the report that was spread among the media hadn't been written on an official ministry letterhead and hadn't been signed by its press service

Russian Fuel and Energy Ministry spokesman
Polish TV reported that the country's largest opera house, Teatr Wielki-Opera Narodowa in Warsaw, and the Teatro alla Scala of Milan, had decided to merge.

It said the two theatres would henceforth share their administration - and their artists.

"Despite some critical voices, this merger seems to be the biggest event in the history of culture in Poland and Italy," the TV said.

Polish TV also had good news commuters stuck in traffic jams, if not for motorists.

Under a new law reported to be coming into force next year, three million cars over 10 years old would have to be scrapped.

"This will relieve huge traffic jams. New car dealers are to give 9% rebates to owners who had scrapped their old vehicles. The old vehicles could also be sold behind Poland's eastern border," the TV suggested.

With the line between real hoaxes and off-beat news stories becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish, it was not immediately clear whether the owners of old Polish cars would soon be forming traffic queues of their own in order to get into Russia.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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01 Apr 99 | UK
A history of fools
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