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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Satirist to Join Pavlovsky on TV

For MTSatirist Maxim Kononenko
An upcoming political show on NTV will be hosted by Kremlin-connected spin doctor Gleb Pavlovsky and feature satirist Maxim Kononenko, whose popular spoofs about President Vladimir Putin are on the web site www.vladimir.vladimirovich.ru, the television channel said Thursday.

NTV spokeswoman Maria Bezborodova said that Pavlovsky would "play the main role" on the show, which has the working title of "Big Politics" and is scheduled to begin airing in late September, and that Kononenko would be a contributor.

"Yes, there will be a columnist under the pseudonym of Mr. Parker," Bezborodova said by telephone, in answer to a question about whether Kononenko, who publishes his online spoofs as Mr. Parker, would be on the show. "As well as Mr. Parker, there will be other columnists."

Neither Pavlovsky, who has recently denied speculation that he would host a show for NTV, nor Kononenko were immediately available for comment Thursday.

In the imaginary world of Vladimir Vladimirovich, the lighthearted vignettes portray Putin as an almost childlike innocent who sometimes has trouble understanding the affairs of state and seems unaware of how he ended up in the Kremlin.

Excerpts from the spoofs have also been regularly featured on Ekho Moskvy radio, as well as in newspapers Gazeta and The Moscow Times.

Pavlovsky's show, which will run weekly on either Saturday or Sunday, will be "a journal of stories summing up the week from the point of view of a spin doctor," Bezborodova said. She declined to give further details, saying NTV would say more about the project at the end of August.

Pavlovsky is a longtime Kremlin ally who was involved in helping Moscow's favored candidate in last year's Ukrainian presidential elections, Viktor Yanukovych, build his campaign.

Natalya Timakova, deputy head of the Kremlin press service, declined to comment on NTV's program when contacted through her secretary Thursday.

Manana Aslamazyan, director of Internews Russia, a media freedom watchdog, said television was in need of independent analytical programs, but questioned the choice of Pavlovsky as host. "I don't think that the host of such a program should be a spin doctor, a person who has certain views that he doesn't hide," she said. "It would lack impartiality."

Mikhail Fedotov, a former press minister and a senior member of the Russian Union of Journalists, also predicted that the program would have a slant.

"It will not be an independent review of political events, but a dissection ... from a strictly defined angle," he said. "Very inconspicuously, you will be encouraged to love the authorities and hate anyone in opposition."

Fedotov said NTV would most likely not allow Kononenko to criticize the authorities and would confine his role in the program to adding a lighthearted touch to the week's political events.

Yury Korgunyuk, head of the Indem think tank, said NTV executives might be hoping that Kononenko could help balance out the show.

"They want to combine two opposites," Korgunyuk said. "They want the channel to remain toothless and loyal to the authorities, yet enjoy respect at the same time. I don't believe that will work."

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Radio Liberty talk show host who worked at NTV before it was taken over by state-controlled Gazprom-Media in 2000, said Kononenko could attract a young, liberal audience to the show.

Kara-Murza added, however, that he was surprised that some of the characters that appeared in Kononenko's columns, such as influential Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov and State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, had not blocked the show.

"I don't understand how the prototypes agreed to that," he said of the people parodied in the spoofs.

Korgunyuk said that Kononenko was not too much of an irritant for the Kremlin, and that his stories had grown kinder toward Putin. "They all appear to be pretty gentle humor," he said.

Yevgeny Kiselyov, who hosted NTV's "Itogi" weekly news analysis show under the channel's former owner, Vladimir Gusinsky, went further, saying that many Kononenko columns showed Putin in a positive light. "In most of the stories, Putin looks the smartest, the hippest and the coolest," Kiselyov said.

Kiselyov also said Kononenko had displayed "out-and-out, blatant anti-Western views" in his web log on www.livejournal.com.

The ownership of the Vladimir Vladimirovich web site has been questioned recently. Novaya Gazeta and Moscow Times columnist Yulia Latynina reported last month that the web site had been sold to "a middleman close to Surkov," but later said Kononenko had told her that as a joke.

"That's a lie. A bald-faced lie, just like always," Surkov's character said in one of Kononenko's spoofs about Latynina's report.

Kononenko has said he received funding to run the web site in November 2003 from a businessman, whom he declined to identify.