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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower