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Pro-Putin Activists Launch Russia's Answer to 'Charlie Hebdo' to Mock West

The first edition of "Sharzh i Pero," or "Cartoon and Pen," features cartoons mocking Ukraine's leaders and the West.
April 23, 2015, 4:11pm
Photo par Dmitry Serebryakov/AFP/Getty Images

The first issue of what is being touted as Russia's own version of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — assuming the same colorful caricatures and caustic quips as the controversial weekly, but with a vastly different agenda — has just hit the streets of Moscow.

Sharzh i Pero (Cartoon and Pen) magazine is the creation of pro-Putin activists from Russia's Anti-Maidan movement, which was formed to counter the wave of revolutionary demonstrations that began in Ukraine in November 2013 and lasted several months, leading to the February 2014 ousting of former pro-Russia president Victor Yanukovych.

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One of the artists said that the magazine, which was being handed out for free to passersby in Moscow this week, is an effort to counter the anti-Russia propaganda that he feels is currently being pushed by global media.

"Both in Ukraine and in the West, there is a mass Russophobic campaign going on," the magazine's front-page designer Mikhail Serebryakov told AFP. "But from our side, from artists, there was no response."

"Therefore we got together and decided to give our answer," he said.

Related: Thousands Attend Pro-Putin Rally: Moscow's Anti-Maidan March

The inaugural edition of the four-page journal features cartoons that jab at Ukraine's current pro-European leadership, including a cartoon mocking President Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire owner of a confectionary empire.

The image shows Poroshenko, commonly referred to as "the chocolate king," in front of a line of chocolate candies with mini tanks attached to the top.

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Another cartoon shows former boxer and Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko in a pair of gloves, smashing into the base of a Lenin statue. The caption implies the leader has lost some of his mental acuity after being bashed too hard in the head by a former competitor.

The Anti-Maidan movement — comprised of a medley of high-profile politicians, Cossacks, soldiers who have fought with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, and patriotic personalities including minor celebrities — frequently arranges visible rallies and concerts in support of the Kremlin's role in the Ukraine conflict.

Members include the leather-clad biker Alexander "the Surgeon" Zaldostanov, who heads up Russian President Vladimir Putin's favorite motorcycle gang the Night Wolves, Russian Senator Dmitry Sablin, and world-class female mixed martial arts fighter Julia Berezikova.

The first edition of the magazine also features a cartoon of several leaders from Western countries who have openly supported Ukraine's government, among them President Barack Obama, with their hands covering their mouths and eyes.

Related: 'The Surgeon': We Spoke with the Leader of Putin's Favorite Biker Club, the Night Wolves

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The caption underneath roughly translates to: "We in the West have decided: all of aggression comes from Moscow. Our eyes and mouths shut — we're not to be blamed. You, Russia, are evil, but the West is the kindest. Knowing this, Ukraine considers us as friends."

France's Charlie Hebdo, which made world news after several of its cartoonists were killed when its offices in Paris were attacked in January, published highly controversial images, including some of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. While some Russian critics pointed to the weekly as rampant liberalism and the outpouring of sympathy in the wake of the murders as "general hysteria," Charlie had gained support from key Russian opposition figures and politicians for its defense of free speech — including the late anti-corruption campaigner Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down in February close to the Kremlin.

All the artists and activists involved in the creation of Sharzh i Pero are volunteering their time "free of charge," according to Anti-Maidan spokesman Valery Zaborovsky.

Related: Russian Opposition Blames Kremlin Propaganda for Killing Boris Nemtsov