Putin speaks, boos go unheard: censoring enrages blogosphere
By Stefan Korshak Nov 21, 2011, 15:06 GMT
Moscow - Russia's blogosphere erupted with hoots of sarcasm on Monday, after state-run television censored video of thousands of sports fans booing and whistling at Prime Minister Vladmir Putin as he attempted to make a speech.
A sixth-degree black belt in judo, Putin had climbed into a ring in Moscow's Olympic Arena after a Sunday mixed martial arts bout to congratulate heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko for defeating American Jeff Monson in a three-round bout.
Some 22,000 fight fans met Putin, by most polls Russia's most popular politician, with near-dead silence. Then they hurled a rising crescendo of catcalls and jeers.
The former KGB agent seemed to ignore the crowd and plowed on with a speech calling Emelianenko 'a true Russian knight.' It appeared only to worsen matters.
'Get off!', 'Out!' and 'Fu!' (Russian: Yuck!) were among the discernable insults aired live by Russia's national television channel Rossiya.
Far and away Russia's most popular politician, Putin has some 60-per-cent popular support according to recent surveys. The number is, however, down from 2010, when as many as four out of five Russians said they trusted him to run the country.
Ekho Mokskvy, an independent news radio station often critical of Putin, said the harsh Olympic Arena had booed the prime minister for 'the first time in memory.'
Russia'a national television channels gave heavy play to Putin's handshake with the burly Emelianko, followed by a manly kiss and a short speech about strong Russian values.
The catcalls, on the other hand, were edited out of rebroadcasts, with a sound track of upbeat cheers and applause - timed well with Putin's speech - replacing the actual comments of the Moscow fans.
Russian state media has long emphasized reports showing Putin to be a patriotic, tough and above all popular national leader. News features in past years have shown him flying a fighter jet, tagging a Siberian tigers, driving a Forumula I race car and riding a chopper with motorcycle enthusiasts.
But many independent Russian bloggers writing in the wake of his foul reception at Olympic Arena had a different opinion of the prime minister.
'I don't know if VV (Putin) slept well. But he will remember this surprise for a long time, and I hope he draws the right conclusions about his 'megpaopularity',' wrote the blogger Axtel on the politics-related Polit.ru website.
'Yeah, looks like Olympic Arena has decided who THEY want to vote for,' wrote EKX on the usually apolitical CAR72.ru website, whose forums normally discuss automotive matters.
Mikhail Moskalev, director of the Olympic Arena appeared to attempt damage control, telling reporters the booing hadn't been directed against Putin at all, but rather against the American Monson, who allegedly angered the crowd by fighting poorly.
Blogosphere reaction to Moskalev's allegation was equally swift and, for the most part, just as outraged.
'That is lying whitewash. Nobody ever whistles at the guy who loses. It's dumb, nobody does it, and any one who goes to a sports event knows this. The person who got whistled, like it or not, was our 'unparalleled' national leader,' wrote Grader on the 66.ru news website.
Putin's recently announced his candidacy in Russia's March presidential vote, an election most observers predict he will win easily.
Some bloggers said his two terms from 2000 to 2008 were enough for any man, and that voters were sick of him, and many comments showed hostility towards Putin unheard of in official Russian political life.
'Citizen Putin decided to score election points and feel the love of his electorate ... and got whistled at. What did he expect? If people watch a fight they must love usurpers and thieves?' wrote the blogger cadu3m.
One blogger directed his comments to Fedor Emelianko, in his day one of the most dangerous fighters the mixed martial arts has ever produced.
'Oh dear Little Fedor. There you were (right next to Putin) a step away from becoming a national hero. And you missed your chance,' wrote Euginealive in a comment on the Youtube version of the non-censored version of the Putin speech.