MOSCOW -- Call it the headline that launched a thousand tweets.
For the February 1 broadcast of his program Vesti Nedeli, the bombastic television presenter Dmitry Kiselyov used the title: Putin Can Destroy NATO With A Single Phone Call. It was pretty standard fare for the viscerally anti-Western Kiselyov, who once said on-air that Russia could reduce the United States to "radioactive ash."
Soon after the program aired, the headline on Vesti Nedeli's website was changed to the blander: The New Budget Will Be Ratified On April 1.
But the change wasn't enough to stop the online ridicule, which came fast and furious.
The satirical news feed Lentach tweeted:
“Vesti.Ru has deleted the title ‘Putin Can Destroy NATO With A Single Phone Call.’ What’s the problem, can’t he?”
Another Twitter user, Vyazanyi Tvitter, was particularly active. One of his tweets quipped:
“Putin couldn’t destroy NATO because they didn’t pick up the phone where he called.”
Vyazanyi Tvitter also wondered about the dangers of using a telephone as a weapon, tweeting:
"Since he destroyed NATO with a phone call, Putin accidentally fired off an SMS to the UN Security Council."
And another showed a smiling blonde woman speaking on a old-style payphone saying: "Hello, NATO? Now you're dead!"
Another Twitter user -- eto Sasha -- used a different variation on the meme:
-- Hello, you’re destroyed.
-- Is this NATO?
-- Damn, I got the wrong number.
The blogger Doctor Gilotyev tweeted a photo of Putin showing off his new phone to Chinese President Xi Jingping.
“Look, you just press here -- bam, no more NATO," the caption reads.
Opposition leader and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny also got into the act, suggesting it would be better if Putin could solve Russia's domestic problems -- like poor public transportation.
“Vesti.Ru says Putin can destroy NATO with a single phone call. But can he bring back the suburban trains to Pskov Oblast?" Navalny tweeted.
And a Twitter user called Sheiker posted a picture of two Kremlin telephones. A red one is marked “Alinochka" -- an apparent reference to gymnast Alina Kabayeva, who is widely believed to be romantically involved with Putin. And a white phone is marked "Destroy NATO."
The caption on the tweet reads: "The D**khead's Desk."
And Usy Peskova wondered whether it is safe to pick up the phone anymore:
"My phone just rang, but I didn’t pick up in case it’s him!" read the tweet.
Despite the Twitter ridicule, Kiselyov remains one of Russia's most popular pundits.
A poll by the state-controlled VTsIOM in March identified him as the second “most-authoritative” journalist in Russia after Vladimir Solovyov, a presenter on Russia’s Rossiya 1.