- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

MOSCOW A pop song idolizing 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 Mr. Putin.
The chorus runs:
Someone like Putin
to be full of strength;
Someone like Putin
who doesn't drink;
Someone like Putin
who doesn't offend;
Someone like Putin
who won't run away.
The song appears to be an attempt by presidential supporters to build on the growing popularity of 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 playlist. Editors say 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 organization that idolizes 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 Nikita Khrushchev and Josef Stalin. However, the movement denies all knowledge of the song.
"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," a spokesman for Come Together said.
Some political analysts think the song is a heavy-handed attempt to create a theme tune for the forthcoming presidential-election campaign, which is due to be held early in 2004.
Mr. Putin insists that he is embarrassed by the popular image built around his personality. Last month, officials brought a case against a regional ice-cream maker to stop him from selling "President" lollipops, known to locals as "Sweet Vovochka," the diminutive of Mr. Putin's first name.

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