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Putin satire shuts paper

Moscow, Feb. 22: The liberal Russian newspaper Noviye Izvestia was closed temporarily yesterday after the Kremlin was outraged by an article lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s growing personality cult, journalists said.

Staff arrived to find the security guards had all been replaced. The editor-in-chief, Igor Golembiovskiy, and several leading journalists were told they had been suspended and were turned away.

Noviye Izvestia has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side since it was set up five years ago by Putin’s arch-rival, the businessman Boris Berezovsky. It is seen as a political mouthpiece in his battle with the President.

The last straw was an article on Wednesday detailing bizarre examples of a personality cult extolling the President entitled the “Putinisation of the whole country”.

Valery Yakov, the deputy editor, said: “We were discussing whether to put this article in Wednesday’s edition as we already had a series of controversial editions recently and were afraid of irritating the authorities.

“But we went ahead as [the Putinisation article] said nothing new as most of these facts were already known.”

The article detailed the stranger ways Russians have chosen to honour Putin. The most unusual was a man who bred a tomato, weighing 3.5 pounds, but was refused permission to name it “Vladimir Putin”.

A Russian judge got his job back as the top constitutional arbiter yesterday, eight years after being forced out for challenging former President Boris Yeltsin in a standoff with parliament which ended in a bloodbath. Valery Zorkin was elected for the second time as chairman of the constitutional court, which rules on the legitimacy of laws, receiving votes from 10 of the 19 judges.

Clearly surprised, Zorkin declined to answer questions from reporters and said the majority vote for the three-year term was “completely unexpected”.

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