The Moscow Times reports that the Russian television network NTV, which is owned by the state-run energy giant Gazprom, boldly tested the limits of criticizing President Vladimir Putin on Sunday night by broadcasting a sketch featuring comedian Dmitry Grachyov as the Russian strongman. The parody poked fun at Putin's legendary antics, including his "discovery" of Greek urns while scuba diving:
The pro-government channel had whetted viewers' appetites earlier Sunday by publishing an article on its website under the headline "'Yes, Mr. President!' We're Really Showing This on Air."
Bloggers spent the early hours of Monday morning debating whether the new show reflected a loosening of the Kremlin's grip over the media, even though similar hopes were quashed after Channel One broadcast a humorous cartoon on New Year's Eve in 2009 showing Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev dancing and singing.
Just one catch: According to the Moscow Times, Putin watched the sketch in advance. And he apparently approved, however grudgingly. "He invariably welcomes humor, in the best sense of the word," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency. Channel One, I imagine, might disagree.
Here's a trailer for the parody:
You can watch the full sketch here.