Fruit Juice Commercials Poke Fun at Prokhorov

He is one of the country's wealthiest men and he gained notoriety over the New Year's holiday when French police detained him briefly as part of a probe into a high-class prostitution ring.

Now the travails of Mikhail Prokhorov are being lampooned by a television commercial for fruit juices that casts a withering eye at both him and the high-rolling antics of his fellow oligarchs. The ad is a rare taste of the biting satire that used to be relatively common on television but has since disappeared.

Set to the tune of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz," the ad spoofs the case of Prokhorov, general director of the world's biggest nickel producer who was detained by French police at the swanky Courchevel ski resort in France in January.

The ad, which has aired since March 24 on three channels, one of them state-run, shows police escorting lines of women dressed in lingerie, furs and traditional Russian hats from a sun-kissed French ski resort, as shocked guests look on. Last out of the door is their host, scowling, with a shaved head and dressed only in a bathrobe.

The scene shifts to a comfortable Moscow living room, where a middle-class woman watches the proceedings on the news with a weary smirk. "Some enjoy fairy tales of the good life," the voice-over says. "Others drink juice."

The ad does not identify Prokhorov by name. But Yulia Vishnevskaya, a spokeswoman for Nidan Juices, confirmed that it was based on a January raid in France "that involved a famous Russian billionaire." She said the ad was in line with the "anti-bourgeois message" employed to market the juices.

Sergei Chernytsin, a spokesman for mining giant Norilsk Nickel, said Prokhorov had not seen the ad, since he rarely watches television.

"But seeing as he's a creative person with a sense of humor and self-irony ... he would probably have a long laugh," Chernytsin said.

Some of Russia's best-known satirical television programs have gone off the air since President Vladimir Putin came to power seven years ago, and broadcasters have become more cautious. The primary TV broadcasters are all state-controlled or state-owned.

Criticism of Russia's super-rich is seldom so blatant on major networks, and businesses are quick to swat down abrasive media coverage in the courts.

According to Forbes, Prokhorov, 41, is worth $13.5 billion and has gold, real estate and banking holdings.

After four days in detention, French police released him without charge.

Shortly after the arrest, a Norilsk spokesman said Prokhorov would sell his stake in the company and step down as general director. The company called it a corporate restructuring unrelated to the incident in France.