Russian TV red-faced over interview with dead singer

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Opera singer Elena Obraztsova died in 2015

The TV channel of the Russian defence ministry has been ridiculed online after it published an interview on its website with an opera singer who died several years ago.

Zvezda claimed to have spoken to Elena Obraztsova as she attended the funeral of controversial journalist Sergei Dorenko over the weekend, the Russian independent media report.

Mr Dorenko, a supporter-turned-critic of President Putin, died last week while riding his motorcycle in Moscow.

Zvezda quoted Elena Obraztsova as saying that Mr Dorenko was an "uncompromising journalist", who either "spoke the truth or did not speak at all".

But, as many Twitter users were quick to point out, the opera diva has herself been dead since 2015.

Image copyright Sergei Dorenko/Instagram
Image caption Sergei Dorenko was known as a "TV killer" for his relentless interviewing style

Fake news reputation

Zvezda originally changed the story by attributing the quotes to Elena Obraztsova's daughter, but then took it down, according to independent online TV channel Dozhd.

The article seems to have disappeared from Google cache, but not before many users had managed to take screenshots of it.

The article says that the interview took place at the Troyekurovskoye Cemetery in Moscow, where Mr Dorenko was due to have been buried on 12 May.

But it was later reported that the funeral was cancelled after the deceased's daughters from his first marriage had asked for further tests to be carried out on his body.

Image copyright Roman Dobrokhotov/Twitter
Image caption Some users took screengrabs of the article before it was taken down

Zvezda has garnered a reputation for producing fake news in recent years, and the funeral blunder provided another opportunity for critics to poke fun at the channel on Twitter.

"'The dead are burying the corpses'. There has been much symbolism in recent days," quipped online activist Sasha Sotnik, possibly referring to President Putin's victory lap tumble at an ice hockey match.

Some saw this as an opportunity to take aim at the authorities, especially over a new bill that tries to outlaw fake news reports.

"It's time for the fake news law to be applied. Hey wait, it doesn't apply to all media, " one user posted sarcastically.

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Another person made a tongue-in-cheek observation of a further oddity: "This it truly strange because Obraztsova is buried at Moscow's Novodevichye cemetery, not Troyekurovskoye."

Zvezda has since apologised for the "untruthful report" unreservedly, assuring readers that the incident has been investigated and all responsible held to account.

"TV channel Zvezda formally offers its apology... to everyone who might have seen the publication in question," the statement says.

Reporting by Stephen Ennis and Krassi Twigg

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