MOSCOW -- Russians are ridiculing Ukraine's president after he tweeted an Economist publication's lighthearted cover photoshopped to show him -- instead of his Russian rival -- shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's most powerful leaders.
The date on the mock version of The World In 2016 cover had also been changed to 2017, presumably to suggest that Ukraine would emerge victorious from its dispute with Russia over the seizure of Crimea nearly two years ago and Moscow's alleged support for armed separatism in eastern Ukraine.
President Petro Poroshenko's office shrugged off detractors for not having "a single drop of humor" and called the image's manipulation simply a New Year's "joke."
That explanation failed to satisfy critics who then questioned why the tweet -- which subbed in Poroshenko atop the cover's original image of Russian President Vladimir Putin, nestled between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British Prime Minister David Cameron -- was hastily deleted from Poroshenko's @poroshenko Twitter account.
Screen grabs of the original tweet include Poroshenko vowing that "I receive some gifts not as a compliment, but as a personal duty."
It wasn't long before Russian official reaction began -- and there appeared little doubt that it was no joke in Moscow.
Aleksei Pushkov, head of the Russian State Duma's foreign affairs committee, inveighed on Twitter: "The Chronicles of Narnia: Poroshenko seriously imagined himself on the front cover of The Economist alongside leaders from Germany, USA, India, China.. Dreams far from reality."
The trolling soon began. Russian social networks were flooded with fake glossy magazine covers depicting Poroshenko as anything from a half-naked, chiseled hunk to the first man in space or one of the founding fathers of the United States.
"Why did Poroshenko delete his Tweet? He could have photoshopped his mug on other magazine covers."
Another says simply: "Poroshenko has mastered photoshop!"
Nina Byzantina compiled her favorites:
Twitter user ValLisitsa wrote: "Some cuteness for the feed: Poroshenko on the front page of Esquire in the form of Angelina Jolie":
The derision was not lost among Russia's staunchly anti-Ukrainian media, outlets like LifeNews and the Russian Defense Ministry's Zvezda TV station, which tapped into the online mockery:
Even state TV station Vesti was in on the act, tweeting a compilation of funny Poroshenko memes under the headline "Playboy Poroshenko: finally the Ukrainian president has been successful."
This nikaklies image appears to depict a crestfallen Poroshenko at a table of world leaders being asked crudely: "Pig, why did you photoshop the magazine?"
Poroshenko's press team wrote on Facebook that it had received mainly positive feedback: "Apart from the mass of positive reposts from official pages, this post has also received an un-New-Year-spirited, stormy reaction from certain subscribers and Russian media. The latter have, without a single drop of humor, taken this cover as the entirely real prospect of Russia losing its place among world leaders."
It continued: "In light of this being our gift to the president for New Year, we would like these holiday-spirited ideas to be taken lightly as a joke, and definitely through the prism of Ukraine's search for its place in the world."