Off the radar: Russian TV ignores PM wife's plane scandal

Moscow (AFP) –


Russians posted plane emojis and angry comments on Thursday as journalists and TV stars interviewing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev failed to raise explosive claims over his wife's use of a private jet.

Medvedev's annual televised question-and-answer session lasted two hours and featured a panel of journalists, a well-known comedian and a young Instagram star.

Yet none mentioned a scandalous report with millions of views on YouTube about the premier's wife Svetlana Medvedeva's alleged use of a $50 million jet for numerous private trips including pilgrimages.

A report making the claim by opposition leader Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation came out Wednesday and the video version has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube.

The report alleges Medvedeva used a plane owned by a Belize offshore firm to make at least 11 trips in a personal capacity including a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, despite not having the right to a personal plane.

Speculation ahead of Medvedev's interview centred on whether any journalist would use the live show to ask him about it.

"I address all journalists. Maybe there are honest people among you who will ask Medvedev a concrete question," wrote Navalny on his blog.

As the show rolled on and soft-ball questions focused on the economy, hospitals and domestic violence, viewers posted angry comments.

"What about the plane? Let's look into it," wrote one user, Dmitriy Im, on the YouTube channel of NTV television.

"It's a show with his jesters sitting and asking easy questions," wrote another, Andrey ML.

"The questions are about nothing," said viewer Dimon Avas.

One commentator, iXander81 said, however: "If they ask a question about the plane, it will be the last of their career."

Others questioned why no channel that covers opposition politics was represented.

Some simply posted plane emojis and the hashtag "Svetlana Medvedeva's plane".

On Twitter, shortly after the broadcast, the top three trending topics in Russia all referred to the plane scandal.

"20 channels, over 2 hours, zero questions about his wife's plane," independent news site Meduza mused.

A 2017 report by Navalny alleging that Medvedev controls a luxury property empire has been viewed 32 million times on YouTube.

Another investigation by Navalny's team, released Monday, concerned the president of VTB state-run bank Andrei Kostin and alleged his television presenter lover travels in a private plane and a yacht and enjoys expensive property.

The woman, Nailya Asker-zade, brushed off the speculation, joking about Navalny on her Instagram account: "I ordered some native advertising for my Insta from a popular blogger. I didn't think it would go so far."