Event pushes anti-Putin demo off the headline news

MOSCOW

Russian TV news was this weekend dominated by the horror of the Newtown, Conn. shootings, the story eclipsing the return to Moscow’s streets Saturday of anti-Putin demonstrators.

Pubcaster Channel One lead the way. On Sunday, the station — Russia’s most watched — continued to run the fallout from the murderous rampage at Sandy Hook elementary school as its top story, reflecting the worldwide response to the U.S. tragedy.

Leading with the statement that “America (was) again in shock and mourning,” Channel One’s late evening news Sunday focused on the key issues raised by Friday’s shooting.

Channel One devoted nearly eight minutes to the tragedy that “the whole world is talking about,” including details of two more deadly shootings over the weekend, in an Alabama hospital Saturday and a California shopping mall Sunday.

Laying the blame on “psychopaths,” the station noted that this was not the first time such a tragedy had occurred in the U.S. and posed what is called a dumb question — why was the second amendment right to bear arms more important than the right to life in the U.S., where there were some 200 million guns in a population of 300 million.

The report closed with footage showing dozens of well-wishers laying bouquets of flowers outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and President Vladimir Putin’s remarks in an official telegram of condolences sent to President Obama, expressing his grief at the death of “so many little children.”

News of the Newtown shootings eclipsed media reports of Saturday’s street demonstrations against Putin — the first anti-regime protests since police violently broke up a rally in May.

Saturday’s event in Moscow outside the Lubyanka Square headquarters of the FSB (in Soviet times the KGB) was attended by no more than a couple of hundred people after city authorities banned it.

More than 40 people were arrested, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny and socialite Ksenia Sobchak, before being released without charge later.

But the event — which came a week after Pavel Kostromov, who is making a film about the opposition, was taken in for questioning by police probing violence during an anti-Putin action in Moscow last May — received scant coverage on most Russian TV stations.

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