If Barack Obama is looking for ways beyond canceling summits to express his displeasure with Russia’s president, he may have an answer: On July 31, Russians watching the evening news on the Urals-based Eastern Express channel were suddenly treated to an unexpected segment: a searing diatribe against Vladimir Putin, who the report claimed has stripped Russians of their freedom of speech and sowed corruption that puts Russia on par with Uganda and Togo. The dark video, which interrupted an otherwise mundane and chipper broadcast, has since gone viral on YouTube.
AFP reports that an unhappy employee appears to have pulled off the difficult ruse — television is highly censored and tightly controlled in Russia — and that the head of Eastern Express has vowed to fire the staffer, calling the stunt an "act of hooliganism." (The anti-Putin rant begins around 1:50 in the video above, and surprisingly continues for several minutes before abruptly being pulled.) Even if you don’t speak Russian, the morose music and images should give you a pretty clear sense of the message.
The slip-the-Putin-criticism-past-the-television-censors trick may be eye-catching, but it’s not entirely unprecedented. In 2011, for instance, a Russian news show aired a highly critical piece about human rights abuses in Chechnya — at least, that is, until the segment was yanked before it could make its way across the country’s nine time zones.