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'What Panama?' Putin And Pals Mocked On Internet Over Offshore Revelations

  • Anna Shamanska

A man walks past a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and reading "Which Panama?" at a bus stop in Moscow on April 6.

A man walks past a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and reading "Which Panama?" at a bus stop in Moscow on April 6.

The Kremlin has cast the Panama Papers as an attack on President Vladimir Putin, and the response on the Russian street was muted. Instead of the massive protests that took place in Iceland over revelations about the use of offshore companies to hide wealth, Moscow saw several one-man pickets.

Some Russians, however, turned to their creative side to voice discontent.
A poster depicting Vladimir Putin as Raoul Duke, the drugged-up antihero of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, hung on a downtown Moscow bus shelter for several hours on April 6 before it was taken down. The poster, which portrayed Putin sporting a panama hat and sunglasses, read: "What Panama?"

The unknown author of the poster, however, wasn't the first one to use the movie reference. Just a day after the Panama Papers were published, Russian airline-ticket search engine Aviasales used a similar image to sell tickets to Panama on Facebook.

"The most fashionable vacation place, where the world's most famous people leave their money. Find out how much the cheapest ticket to Panama costs," the announcement reads.

Wry Internet humor also targeted Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin, a close friend of Putin. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) called the musician "the secret caretaker" of much of the up to $2 billion the Panama Papers say was funneled into offshore shell companies by close Putin associates.

One Twitter user suggested that a single "rank-and-file cellist" has more money than the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan's entire debt to Russia, despite "all of its cotton."

In late March, media reported that Moscow had written off Uzbekistan's $865 million debt, prompting criticism from some Russians amid a prolonged economic downturn.

Another Twitter user posted this still from the U.S. crime drama Breaking Bad -- but added the caption "Cellists after the concert."

Then there was this old black-and-white photo of children playing the cello: "Panama offshore. The beginning," the tweet reads.

Another Tweet suggested that Roldugin is richer than some of the world's biggest rock stars.

The Internet didn't forget Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, even though his name isn't featured in the Panama Papers. But this tweet implies that Medvedev, widely seen as playing a distant second fiddle to Putin, was out of the loop once again.

"Your face when even Navka has an offshore, and you don't," it reads -- a reference to Tatiana Navka, an Olympic champion ice dancer and the wife of Putin's spokesman.

About This Blog

Using regional media and the reporting of Current Time TV's wide network of correspondents, Anna Shamanska will tell stories about people and society you are unlikely to read anywhere else.

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