NIZHNEVARTOVSK, Russia -- A local journalist in this remote Siberian city has been fired after she gave an interview about children from a local kindergarten performing a controversial song pledging fealty to President Vladimir Putin.
Journalist Aleksandra Terikova of the local N1 television channel was fired on June 6 after the channel's general director, Rinat Karimov, told her that someone with such "political ambitions" should go and work for the independent TV Dozhd.
In response to an inquiry from RFE/RL, N1 Editor in Chief Lyudmila Kozlova confirmed that Terikova had been fired. However, she said it was not over "political disagreements" but rather because Terikova violated company policies and "appeared publicly with political positions in the name of N1."
"I repeat that [Terikova], as a mother, can make any public statements, but not in our name," Kozlova said in a written statement.
Terikova drew attention to the May 24 concert in an Instagram video post that showed the 4- and 5-year-old children from kindergarten No. 68 singing Uncle Vova, We Are With You, by the composer Vyacheslav Antonov. The Uncle Vova in the song refers to Putin.
The uber-loyal song provoked controversy last fall when it premiered with a slick video (below) featuring schoolchildren from Volgograd dressed in police uniforms singing it. That video was produced on the initiative of State Duma Deputy Anna Kuvychko of the ruling United Russia party:
Among the song's more shocking lyrics are lines such as, "While there should be peace on Earth, if the commander in chief calls us to the final battle, Uncle Vova, we are with you!" and, "Sevastopol and Crimea are ours. We'll preserve them for our children. We will return Alaska to the harbor of the motherland." (You can read the complete lyrics in English and Russian here.)
Terikova, whose daughter Alisa sang in the Nizhnevartovsk concert, accompanied her Instagram post with the sarcastic comment: "For some reason, I don't want the commander to summon Alisa to the final battle."
The N1 television channel posted on its page on the VK social-media site an online survey asking locals their opinion of the performance. More than 68 percent of respondents said they viewed it negatively.
"I opposed [the performance], otherwise I wouldn't have posted it," Terikova told RFE/RL. "I think this is pure Hitler Youth. For one thing, all these sectarian songs about our current president and how Crimea is ours are just embryonic evil. They aren't composed out of some great intellect and you have to be a complete idiot to pass them along. But some of our teachers and parents think it is really cute.
"I wouldn't send my child -- and I wouldn't go myself -- into some final battle, not for Uncle Vova or for any other 'uncle' in power," she added. "The lyrics of the song could be understood as a call to commit suicide."
Commenters beneath the N1 online survey expressed similar views.
"Why involve children in politics?" Irina Fabritskaya-Popova wrote.
"Children should sing about mama and sunshine and so on," wrote Anastasia Khipank.
Another mother who was at the concert and who asked to be identified only by her first name, Irina, was shocked to hear her son singing the controversial paean to Putin.
"This is definitely not a song for kindergarten," Irina told RFE/RL. "It is very complicated, and the children can't even say the words. To say nothing of the fact that no one understands the lyrics anyway, so everything came out a garbled mess."
Terikova similarly noted that her daughter had no idea what a "hegemon" was and instead sang the similar-sounding Russian word for "hippopotamus."
The director of the city's Department of Education, Edmond Igoshin, told RFE/RL he agrees with the parents who were upset about the performance.
"I think that in this case, the musical director and the parents should have taken into consideration the age limitations of the children," he said. "I agree with the parents who were not happy that such a composition was selected for performance by kindergartners."