The Russian satirical poet, his billionaire backer and a tour that Putin won't find funny

Mobile phone tycoon Yevgeny Chichvarkin is paying for performers to fly to the UK to perform work aimed at Kremlin

In the days before their compatriots go to the polls next month, London's sizeable Russian community will be treated to performances from a darkly satirical act that mocks Vladimir Putin and the system he has created, all thanks to a renegade Russian businessman living in exile in the British capital.

Citizen Poet features actor Mikhail Yefremov reading out poetry inspired by Russian classics, but given a cutting contemporary twist by the writer and journalist Dmitry Bykov. It was first aired on TV Rain, an independent cable channel. But after just a few episodes, a skit that ruthlessly mocked President Dmitry Medvedev as a hopeless puppet attempting to free himself from the clutches of Prime Minister Putin proved too hot for the channel's airwaves and the duo had to move to a liberal station.

The pair also perform live and Yevgeny Chichvarkin has paid to transport them to London prior to the 4 March election, when Mr Putin will attempt to win a return to the Kremlin. Mr Chichvarkin, a mobile phone magnate who was known as one of Russia's most successful young businessmen until he fled to London in 2008, said he would lose money on the concerts, but felt it was an important civic duty.

Many of the skits are sharply critical of Mr Putin, but others also touch on different aspects of contemporary Russian and international politics. The first London concert will take place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Hall in Westminster, just across from the Houses of Parliament and a symbolic venue for Russian businessmen.

It was here that the annual Russian Economic Forum was held, the biggest economic event in the Russian calendar each year. In 2007, with UK-Russian relations in freefall after the death of Alexander Litvinenko in London, top Russian businessmen and Kremlin-linked speakers pulled out of the forum, after a ban on attending was reportedly ordered by Mr Putin.

"It's extremely symbolic that we'll be doing it where the economic forum, banned by Putin, used to be held," Mr Chichvarkin told The Independent. "Many people in the room will have fond memories of that forum. We signed millions of dollars worth of contracts there and it reflected all our hopes that Russia would integrate further with Europe and become more of an open country; hopes that were dashed."

Mr Chichvarkin himself says he fled Russia because corrupt officials in the Interior Ministry were about to arrest him after he had refused to pay them enormous bribes. Russia later put an Interpol warrant out for the businessman. The warrant has now been lifted, but Mr Chichvarkin refuses to return.

"The people who were threatening me are still free and still in power, so the threat is still there," he says.

He joins a large community of exiles and Kremlin critics based in London, many of whom could be expected to put in appearances at the Citizen Poet concerts. In the December parliamentary elections, over 40 per cent of votes cast at the Russian Embassy in London went to the liberal anti-Kremlin party Yabloko, compared to less than 4 per cent in Russia itself, showing that the British capital remains a hotbed of anti-Putin sentiment.

Tickets to the Westminster concert will be aimed at the minigarch market, priced at up to £270, but a concert the next night promises to be more "democratic", says Mr Chichvarkin, with tickets from £27. Citizen Poet's last ever performance will be back in Moscow on 5 March, the day after the presidential election.

Sport
Romelu Lukaku
sportChelsea striker sends second teasing tweet of the day
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Sport
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura sprays a line after calling for a free kick for Brazil
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Tax Solicitor

£40000 - £70000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Tax Solicitor An excel...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz