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Mystery pop group sings Putin’s praise

Moscow, Aug. 23: A pop song idolising President Vladimir Putin is receiving blanket airplay on Russia’s leading radio stations, although the band does not appear to exist and the record is not on sale.

Someone Like Putin, by Singing Together, features a female lead singer complaining that her adolescent boyfriend fights and drinks. So she leaves him and looks for someone else: someone like Putin.

The song appears to be an attempt by presidential supporters to build on the growing personality cult surrounding the Russian leader.

The country has a well-developed music industry, but no one seems to know anything about Singing Together or its lead singer.

A search of Moscow’s record shops, markets and kiosks failed to turn up CDs or cassettes of the song. There have been no videos, concerts, or articles in the music press about the band.

Dinamit FM, Russia’s leading pop radio station has been playing the song repeatedly for the past week, but knows nothing about the group.

The station’s music editor, who would not give her name, said: “I don’t know where the song came from. It is probably just PR.”

Russian Radio, the second largest station, has also featured the song prominently in its play list. Editors say that an unknown man visited their offices two weeks ago and handed over a copy of it. Irina Tushnova, the music editor at Russian Radio, said: “I don’t know much about the group. Someone came and dropped the song off with our security staff. We listened to it and decided to play it.”

The group’s name and slushy lyrics suggest that the artists are part of Come Together, a youth organisation that idolises the President and backs family values.

Members of the movement recently burned the novel Light Blue Lard, by Vladimir Sorokin, condemning it as pornographic because it contained a homosexual love scene between clones of Khrushchev and Stalin. It also filed a civil suit against Sorokin. The movement denies all knowledge of the song.

A Come Together spokesman said: “We don’t know anything about this song and it is certainly nothing to do with us.

“The singing group is just trying to exploit our image for commercial gain.” Some political observers think that the song is a heavy-handed attempt to create a theme tune for the coming presidential election campaign, which is due to be held early in 2004.

Putin insists that he is embarrassed by the personality cult being built up around him.

Last month officials brought a case against a regional ice-cream maker to stop him selling “President” lollipops, known to locals as “Sweet Vovochka”, the diminutive of Putin’s first name. President Vladimir Putin pressed North Korea on Friday to forge a new Asia-Europe freight route by extending Russia's trans-Siberian railway across the Korean peninsula to bypass China.

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