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Former Putin Fan Now Singing A Different Tune

Singer Oleg Likhachyov
Singer Oleg Likhachyov

Russian elections usually have their share of colorful characters, and the current campaign for the State Duma is no exception.

Oleg Likhachyov, a singer from the Tatarstan capital Kazan, is running for the Duma from the Communists of Russia party, which has been widely seen as a Kremlin-sponsored clone of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) aimed at draining off some of their electorate.

The self-styled "Singing Deputy" raised eyebrows on September 2 when he used his two minutes of national television airtime during a campaign debate to sing his new self-proclaimed “hit” -- "I Renounce Putin."

"I waited four years," he sings. "I blamed the sanctions. I did not betray the dream in the last elections. And I believed that our Putin is a fine fellow. But the people are financial widowers -- You never dared to outlaw capitalism."

Seven years ago, Likhachyov was singing an entirely different tune.

He was seemingly an ardent fan of President Vladimir Putin, the author of a 2014 viral sensation called Vladimir Putin Is A Fine Fellow (Russian title: Vladimir Putin -- molodets!). A lavishly produced video of Likhachyov singing the song has accumulated more than 2.6 million views on YouTube, while another one -- featuring his 12-year-old son, Sasha, belting out the lyrics -- also went viral.

"Vladimir Putin is a fine fellow!" runs the chorus. "Politician, leader, and fighter! Our president has raised up the country! Putin did not betray Russia."

In 2016, Likhachyov tried -- and failed -- to have Vladimir Putin Is A Fine Fellow submitted as Russia's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest.

"My song is a counterbalance to all those Conchitas," he said in an interview that year, referring to Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst, who won the competition in 2014.