A Russian television channel has taken off air a sitcom in which Ukraine’s current president plays a fictional Ukrainian leader who jokes about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Servant of the People, a hugely popular 51-episode show, was a brainchild of 41-year old comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy who declared his candidacy for the Ukrainian presidency before the last season was filmed and aired.
Mr Zelenskiy made it his priority to put an end to a Russia-fueled separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine and even went to meet with Mr Putin in Paris on Monday in a hope to bring about peace.
Two days after the talks in Paris, entertainment channel TNT, owned by the gas giant Gazprom, aired the first three episodes of Servant of the People during prime-time.
Analysts and journalists even joked that the broadcast was the key deal reached between Mr Putin and Mr Zelenskiy.
Hours after it aired on Wednesday, TNT said it would stop the TV broadcasts.
TV viewers in Moscow reported that a segment with Mr Zelenskiy’s joke about Mr Putin was apparently cut out while it aired in full in Russia’s Far East, several times zones earlier.
In the episode, an assistant offers the president-elect an expensive watch and tells him that Mr Putin prefers the Swiss brand Hublot. Mr Zelenskiy mispronounces the French word and asks “Putin Hublot?” echoing a common slur in Ukraine which calls him a “d—head.”
TNT said on Thursday that it never intended to broadcast the entire sitcom and that the episodes were aired to draw subscribers to its paid online streaming service.
Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday denied suggestions that the Kremlin has anything to do with canceling the show.
Political scientist Valery Solovey described the decision to take the show off air as the Kremlin’s “childish reaction” to Zelenskiy’s intransigence at the Paris talks.
The show had been slated to air when the Kremlin was expecting a more favourable outcome from the talks, Mr Solovey told The Telegraph, but underneath the politesse that both leaders displayed at the summit Mr Zelenskiy proved to be unwilling to bend to Mr Putin’s demands.
The joke about Mr Putin must have been the ultimate trigger: “They took offence.”
Mr Zelenskiy’s rise to power marked Ukraine’s decisive break with its Soviet past in contrast to Russia where Vladimir Putin, a 67-year old former KGB officer, has been leading the country for the past two decades.
Some analysts even suggested that Mr Zelenskiy’s win could offer Russians a vision for a political alternative.
“A president like Mr Zelenskiy _ a normal human being who doesn’t think he’s some sort of deity _ is exactly what Russia needs,” Moscow region municipal deputy Vladislav Naganov tweeted. “If ‘Servant of the People’ were to air on Russia TV, Mr Zelenskiy’s approval rating would beat Putin’s.”
Click Here: liverpool mens jersey