First issue of satirical weekly magazine Sharzh i Pero
Moscow - AFP
A group of supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday launched a satirical weekly with anti-Western cartoons and verses, calling it an answer to France's "Charlie Hebdo" magazine.
Activists from the Anti-Maidan movement, which organises rallies and concerts in support of the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine, gave out the first issue on a central pedestrian street.
The four-page magazine has large-format cartoons and carries an 18+ certificate. Its title, Sharzh i Pero, or Cartoon and Pen, evokes Charlie Hebdo.
Established early this year, Anti-Maidan includes groups representing bikers, Cossacks, athletes and veterans of the Afghan and Chechen wars, some of whom have fought alongside rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Kremlin forces condemned Charlie Hebdo's publication of cartoons of Prophet Muhammed as Western liberalism gone too far. But opposition figures such as slain politician Boris Nemtsov supported it.
"All the authors gave their cartoons and verses free of charge.... The issue is all about the events in Ukraine," said Anti-Maidan spokesman Valery Zaborovsky. He said the plan was for it to come out weekly.
One cartoon shows the leaders of the United States, Britain, Germany and Canada covering their eyes and mouths.
"We in the West have decided all the aggression is coming from Moscow. We've closed our mouths and eyes -- it's not our fault," the caption reads.
Another shows Kiev's mayor, former boxer Vitali Klitschko toppling a Lenin statue with gloves decorated with EU stars. The caption suggests his fighting career affected his mental sharpness.
"Oh Lennox Lewis, why did you bash him so hard on the noggin?" the caption says, referring to the former world heavyweight champion.
The activists provocatively gave out copies outside a Ukrainian cultural centre with flags flying.
-'Mass Russophobic campaign'-
The creators claimed Russia needed to give a stronger response to Ukraine and the West.
"Both in Ukraine and in the West there is a mass Russophobic campaign going on. But from our side, from artists, there was no response," said artist Mikhail Serebryakov, who designed the front page.
"Therefore we got together and decided to give our answer."
None of the cartoons show Putin, whose image is closely controlled by the Kremlin.
The creators did not rule out setting their sights on the Russian strongman in the future.
"It's possible," said Anti-Maidan spokesman Zaborovsky, while adding "there is a limit."
Activists said the next issue would mock the "fifth column" opposition to Putin.
Reading the magazine on a bench, driver Yevgeny Kuzmenko, 23, said he was glad that Russia was making a humorous riposte to its critics.
"In Ukraine there's a humorous (TV) cartoon about Putin and his politics.... Compared with that cartoon, this newspaper is child's play."