12 more years of Putin? No thanks, say Russians in musical protests

The song asks pertinent questions: why is there a hole in the budget? Who stoleGazprom?

Moscow

Dazed teenagers in shellsuits flail their limbs in chaotic dance moves, shaven-headed nationalists give Nazi salutes, and riot police throw protesters of all ages into the back of waiting police trucks. Laid over the footage is an upbeat guitar track, and the catchy refrain: "Our asylum is voting for Putin; Putin's definitely our candidate."

The video, which has had more than 200,000 views on YouTube since its release last week, is the latest in a series of satirical musical salvos that have gained popularity after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced last month that he plans to return to the Kremlin.

Mr Putin stepped aside in 2008 after serving as President for eight years, and Dmitry Medvedev became President. The guessing game over whether the more liberal Mr Medvedev would be allowed a second term or whether Mr Putin would return was ended last month, and after elections next March Mr Putin is almost guaranteed to be Russia's ruler until 2024.

While tough-talking Mr Putin is still popular, many Russians are dismayed at the thought of his return, and while criticism or discussion of the decision is absent from state-controlled television, a whole new wave of satire has sprung forth online. Soviet-style murals with aging versions of Mr Putin and his inner circle as they might look in 2024 have been doing the rounds.

But the most fertile ground is music, with the "Asylum" song one of many entered in a competition announced by an anti-corruption blogger to find the best musical riposte to Mr Putin and his United Russia party. The song, sung from the perspective of an asylum patient, asks a number of pertinent questions. "Why is there a hole in the budget and a hole in our heads? Why is it yesterday instead of tomorrow? Who stole Gazprom and Lukoil from the people?"

Russian media say the lyrics to the song were written by Alexander Yelin, a songwriter who is well known for a 2002 hit entitled "A Man Like Putin". That song featured young women wishing that their boyfriends were more like Mr Putin, and was played endlessly on Russian radio as part of a campaign to boost the leader's macho image.

But now Mr Yelin has changed his views. "Initially there was a kind of feminine wonderment with him, but now all that's left is a very masculine sense of disappointment and misunderstanding," he said. "We're just reflecting the situation as it is."

In another sign that even those musicians previously loyal to Mr Putin might be changing their tune, a veteran rocker who played at a victory celebration attended by Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev after the 2008 elections, has said he will not do so again. Andrei Makarevich, leader of the band Time Machine, said he had been "incredibly naive" to back Mr Medvedev, and was disappointed at the recent decision.

"We've already been told who our next President will be," said Mr Makarevich. "There is a feeling that we are being deprived of the remnants of our rights to choose."

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