Russia's 'Spitting Image' is silenced

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The Independent Online

Another anti-Kremlin voice has been silenced after Russia's last semi-independent television station axed its equivalent to Spitting Image. Krasnaya Strela, or Red Arrow, was hosted by two puppets called Stepan Capusta and Khrun Morjov who poked fun at the powers that be, including President Vladimir Putin.

Another anti-Kremlin voice has been silenced after Russia's last semi-independent television station axed its equivalent to Spitting Image. Krasnaya Strela, or Red Arrow, was hosted by two puppets called Stepan Capusta and Khrun Morjov who poked fun at the powers that be, including President Vladimir Putin.

NTV, one of only three channels that covers the whole of Russia and is not directly owned by the state, claimed the political satire was unpopular, shoddily made and too expensive to produce. But many in the industry believe its closure was politically motivated, and NTV, now controlled by the state-owned energy giant Gazprom, is rapidly resembling the channels directly controlled by the state. It will, they say, be turned into a drab, Soviet-style, self-censored outlet showing soap operas, war films, uncritical news reports and dreary repeats.

Russia's last live political talk show, Freedom of Speech, has been axed for similar reasons, as was another political programme, Personal Contribution, on the same channel. A month ago, Leonid Parfyonov, host of a cutting-edge analytical programme called The Other Day, was sacked by NTV for failing "to support the politics of the company's leadership". His mistake had been to interview the widow of a former Chechen rebel president which irked the FSB, the successor organisation to the KGB, accused of assassinating the man.

The changes at NTV follow the appointment of a new director general, Vladimir Kulistikov, a Kremlin loyalist.

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