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Russia's president-elect can't get no respect

By Sebastian Smith AFP - Wednesday, March 5 06:01 pm

MOSCOW (AFP) - Getting into the Kremlin is one thing, but getting respect is another, as a growing flurry of jokes about Russia's president-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, testifies.

Only days after his controversial -- critics say rigged -- landslide election to replace President Vladimir Putin, Medvedev is one of the country's favourite punchlines.

And the jokers aren't pulling punches.

"Medvedev is about to make his debut presidential speech, when an aide runs up to clear strings he sees sticking out of his jacket. 'Leave them,' says Putin in a loud voice. 'Those are my strings.'"

The gags swirling around Internet sites and blogs are a world away from the state television's reverential -- and humourless -- portrayal of Medvedev and his mentor Putin.

Most revolve around Medvedev's diminutive height, youthful appearance, and image of a puppet under a future prime minister Putin.

One joke refers to Medvedev as a "Kinder Surprise," the chocolate egg containing a tiny toy. Another has him erupting with emotion at his mother's warm congratulations on winning the presidency.

"Wow, mum! At least you didn't make fun of me!"

Perhaps the most inventive effort so far is a You Tube clip that spoofs the classic Soviet comedy film "Kavkazskaya Plennitsa," or "Caucasus Prisoner."

The scene, in which a local tricks a naive tourist into taking part in a traditional kidnapping of a beautiful young woman, is instantly recognisable to Russians.

Only in this version the famous dialogue has been switched.

The naive tourist is Medvedev and he's being asked to grab not the girl, but the Russian presidency.

"Wow, what a great tradition!" the tourist says.

In a line that would tickle pink anyone who thought Medvedev's election stage-managed, the local assures him that there won't be any real competition -- but that things must look "natural."

"The candidates will resist, kick, even bite, call for observers, shout that they're going to complain to the UN. But you don't pay attention -- it's all part of a beautiful old tradition!"

Only when the tourist finds out that the prime minister will be Putin does he tremble with fear.

"What? He's not stepping down?"

"He loves to be in charge," the local replies.

But even that clip was topped by the disrespect shown to the incoming Kremlin boss by performance artists who staged a brief orgy in Moscow's Biology Museum last week.

Their naked romp took place under the banner: "Fuck for the bear cub successor" -- a play on Medvedev's name which means "bear" in Russian.

Russian politics is not known for laughs -- a satirical puppet show was one of the first TV programmes axed when Putin became president in 2000.

But even the Kremlin has a sense of humour over the coming Putin-Medvedev power tandem.

"Prime Minister Putin goes to President Medvedev," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists ahead of the election.

"Medvedev asks: 'So what about my new economic plan?'

"Putin says: 'What economic plan?'

"Medvedev looks confused. 'Well if you don't know about it, how would I?'"

Yulia Danilenko, a business psychology consultant in Moscow, said the fact Russians are laughing at their future president "means we're more free, that we're ready for change."

And she welcomed the Kremlin's apparently easy going attitude.

"That shows Medvedev is a pyschologically strong person. The way things are here, he'd only have to complain once and these jokes would vanish instantly."

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