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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Case of the Vanishing Sense of Humor

Does parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov lack a sense of humor?

A Russian tradition of publishing fictional April Fool's Day reports went from the funny pages to the front pages Thursday when Khasbulatov denounced a feature lampooning him as "a provocation".

The spoof, headlined "In Khasbulatov's Kitchen", took readers on a tour of the speaker's apartment -- a place so big, it said, that he needs "10 to 15 minutes just to walk around the flat".

The lead story of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets on Thursday, it was accompanied by photographs of marble-floored rooms, large atriums accented with Greek columns and a dining table set for 15 people.

"Khasbulatov just didn't get the joke", Natalya Yefrimova, the newspaper's deputy editor in chief, said Thursday. She also said she was not surprised by his reaction.

"In my opinion, he didn't lose his sense of humor yesterday, he lost it a long time ago", she commented.

Khasbulatov's statement objecting to the article, carried on Itar-Tass, acknowledged that April 1 was "a good pretext for jokes" but warned that an "unsophisticated reader" could have mistaken the spoof for a genuine report.

The statement charged that liberal newspapers were using the holiday to attack conservative politicians.

"This is not an April 1 joke, but another provocation of Moskovsky Komsomolets", the statement said.

A browse through Thursday's papers disclosed that others also used the holiday to poke fun at conservative figures. None of the major dailies carried a lampoon of President Boris Yeltsin.

The jokes came in all shapes and sizes.

Itar-Tass said that Russia's double-headed eagle would get a third head to symbolize the battle between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that Vice President Alexander Rutskoi had shaved off his trademark mustache after a pledge to do so if the referendum went forward.

Interfax said that Yeltsin's press secretary, Vyacheslav Kostikov, had issued a statement calling for a moratorium on all statements around the world.

Alla Okhorskaya, an editor at Interfax, said that the report had generated three phone calls from foreign news agencies. "Of course it was a joke", she said. "But they weren't totally sure".