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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Baghdad Envoy Plays a Prank

A couple hundred thousand troops have invaded his country and his capital is under daily airstrikes, but that didn't stop Iraq's ambassador to Russia from getting into the spirit of April Fools' Day on Tuesday.

At one of his now-daily news conferences, a steely-faced Abbas Khalaf Kunfuth read what he said was a news flash from Reuters: The Americans had accidentally fired a nuclear missile into British forces, killing seven.

After a shocked pause, the still-steely faced Abbas revealed it was all a joke.

Russia, like the ambassador, has grasped April Fools' Day to its bosom like a hysterical teenager. On April 1, Odessa, the spiritual home of Soviet comedy, hosts a comedy festival and carnival, while Moscow clubs promise lots of laughs and newspapers compete with one another to make up the most outlandish story.

Mobile phone chain Yevroset offered free Motorola phones to the first 20 people to come to their store and strip naked. It sent out a press release -- with photos -- of an eager crowd outside one of its shops catching a glimpse of consumer greed. The winners all seemed to be suspiciously good-looking young people.

Gone are the days of black humor that was very hard to distinguish from reality -- Moskovsky Komsomolets once joked that a 200-kilogram bomb was found in the Yauza River. Newspapers went for a lighter touch Tuesday.

Izvestia reported that Moscow traffic police have just received a new batch of police cars -- Lamborghinis, direct from Italy.

The Moscow Times reported that Russia's former Miss Universe, Oksana Fyodorova, was named a deputy prime minister.

In a second story, Izvestia competed with the reshuffle idea by insisting that singer Mikhail Rastoguyev, famous for his military songs, had been appointed defense minister.

The Aton brokerage sent out a daily research note made up almost completely of fake stories. The brokerage said Unified Energy Systems head Anatoly Chubais had announced he was actually a Communist agent provocateur who was going to become a collective farm director. It also said a St. Petersburg criminal organization, the Tambov Group, was planning to hold an annual shareholders meeting to discuss issuing an IPO.

UES got into the act as well, saying it had designed a special substance from butterflies that would cause those who steal electricity cables to vomit and stink. The theft of lines to sell as scrap metal is a chronic problem.

UES also released a statement on its web site that Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky had been appointed a deputy to Chubais -- a joke only funny to those familiar with the strong animosity between the two men.