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Putin Divorce Joke Leads Russia TV To 'Pull Show'

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Russian state television has pulled a show over a joke about President Vladimir Putin's surprise divorce announcement, one of its presenters said Saturday.

In a carefully staged announcement on Thursday, Putin said that he and his wife of 30 years, Lyudmila, were to have a "civilised divorce" because they now lead separate lives.

The news prompted a youth-oriented television show called "The Social Network" to record a spoof item about the 60-year-old Russian strongman putting up a profile on an online dating site.

"We made a video item about photos of Putin for mamba.ru (dating site). They took the whole programme, all of it, off air entirely," the programme's co-host Vladislav Sorokin wrote on Facebook.

He said that he and co-host Yekaterina Voronina planned to quit the show, which airs on weeknights on state-run Obshestvennoye Televideniye, or Public Television.

The channel's general director Anatoly Lysenko denied the show had been pulled for censorship reasons, telling the RIA Novosti news agency: "It's all lies, nothing was closed."

He said the episode, which had been due to be aired on Friday, was pulled because it was "absolutely not ready".

Sorokin said he was inspired by a joke on US website Mashable about the photos Putin should use for his dating profile.

"Keep it up, but without us. We'll work till our contract ends on June 30 and then so long," he wrote.

Voronina confirmed the report to radio station Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei but said her contract barred her from commenting.

Public Television, which can be viewed online and on satellite and cable, was launched only in May.

It was set up at the instigation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a more socially and regionally focused alternative to existing channels but has so far been criticised for its lack of hard-hitting news.

Russian television is notoriously cautious in joking about Putin and a satirical puppet show portraying him as an ugly dwarf-like figure was pulled shortly after he gained the presidency in 2000.

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