BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Monitoring: Media reports
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Monday, 5 June, 2000, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Kremlin pulls strings on TV puppets
Putin puppet
Putin gets to grips with the burdens of high office
Political aides to Russian president Vladimir Putin are increasingly irritated by the portrayal of the president on commercial NTV's satirical puppet show "Kukly".

In recent weeks, Putin aides warned NTV to avoid using the puppet representing the president.

Someone at the top is upset by a rubber puppet

NTV Director-General Yevgeny Kiselev

The pressure suggests that Mr Putin is less tolerant of ridicule than his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, who tolerated "Kukly" for years after an initial unsuccessful attempt to shut the programme down.

"Kukly", which is similar to Britain's "Spitting Image" programme, has repeatedly presented Mr Putin as weak and indecisive.

Unflattering images

In recent weeks Mr Putin's puppet has appeared in a variety of satirical guises. He was portrayed as:

  • an impotent young king on his wedding night
  • an indecisive leader trying to select a new PM
  • a new king choosing his coronation outfit
  • an ignorant censor of literary works

    putin puppet
    Mr Putin - "It doesn't annoy me but my friends take offence"

    Such negative portrayal can be damaging, as "Kukly" is one of the most popular TV shows, with 40% of Moscow viewers tuning in.

    The Russian media has linked the Kremlin's growing exasperation with the Media-Most group - which includes the NTV channel - to a raid on the group's Moscow offices last month.

    In the raid, dozens of armed and flak-jacketed men in balaclavas descended on its Moscow offices saying they were looking for documents.

    Kremlin not amused

    The steady onslaught of satire has prompted Kremlin pressure on NTV to tone down the show, on top of criminal and bankruptcy proceedings against its parent company.

    "People from the Kremlin made transparent hints to us," producer Vasily Grigoryev said. "They told us to be more balanced and to try not to cause a scandal every week. But we do not intend to change anything."

    The programme's audience, he maintained, was as large as the number of people who voted for Mr Putin.


    NTV announced in May it was temporarily removing the Putin puppet in response to Kremlin pressure.

    Kukly - a thorn in the Kremlin's side
    "Because someone at the top is upset by the presence of a rubber puppet representing Mr Putin on the show, we decided to experiment by having one show without the Putin puppet," NTV Director-General Yevgeny Kiselev said.

    The Putin puppet was absent from the next edition of "Kukly," but the barbs fired at him were not.

    The show presented Mr Putin's chief of staff as Moses bringing pronouncements down from God - Putin - who was so exalted no one was allowed to see him or even pronounce his name.

    KGB man

    The latest edition of "Kukly" portrayed Mr Putin - a former KGB man - trying to recruit President Clinton to work for the KGB during Mr Clinton's visit to Moscow.

    clinton puppet on sax
    Agent Clinton: "He likes cigars"
    "His codename: the Saxophonist. Lieutenant Maria Ivanovna Levinsky has already made contact. He likes cigars."

    Mr Putin himself said he has watched "Kukly" "but only a couple of times." "It doesn't annoy me," he said, "but my friends take offence."

    Political foes

    NTV and its parent company Media-Most have been under pressure for months from the Putin government, with Mr Putin's aides treating Media-Most owner Vladimir Gusinsky as one of their main political foes.

    The pressure on "Kukly" probably reflects this political hostility, and resentment at the programme's portrayal of Mr Putin.

    For its part, NTV appears to have no intention of modifying "Kukly" to mollify Mr Putin, and is counting on the show's popularity to hold off more drastic action.

    BBC Monitoring, 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.

  • Search BBC News Online

    Advanced search options
    Launch console
    See also:

    12 May 00 | Europe
    Media group to sue KGB
    11 May 00 | Media reports
    Media stunned by raid
    Internet links:

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    Links to more Media reports stories are at the foot of the page.

    E-mail this story to a friend

    Links to more Media reports stories