Wed, 26 Feb 2020

A young Russian comedian has fled the country after learning of a police probe into jokes from one of his stand-up shows, his lawyer told AFP on Thursday.

The comedian, 25-year-old Alexander Dolgopolov, will not return to Russia until "the situation becomes clearer", lawyer Leonid Solovyov said.

On Thursday, Dolgopolov posted a message on Instagram saying: "We've arrived! We're safe!", showing him standing in front of graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He did not give his location.

Solovyov said he did not know for sure what was behind the police investigation into the comic.

"What's for sure is that the police are interested in his show," he said.

Russian media reported that police were responding to a complaint from a Moscow resident who claimed one of Dolgopolov's shows "offended (religious) believers."

Solovyov said he had not received such a complaint.

Russia has a controversial law that imposes jail terms and fines on those who offend religious believers.

Earlier this week Dolgopolov posted on social media a scan of a letter sent by police in a town in the Moscow region to the Saint Petersburg theatre where he recorded one of his most popular shows online, requesting information about him.

The local police confirmed to AFP that they had received a complaint from a member of the public over "insulting believers" but declined to say whether this referred to Dolgopolov.

The show on YouTube includes a joke about the Slavic boy's name Bogdan, which means gift of God.

In an obscenity-strewn routine the comedian argues that the Virgin Mary should have given Jesus the name Bogdan instead.

The YouTube video of the stand-up show recorded at a bar in Saint Petersburg in February last year, has been viewed more than 2.7 million times.

It also includes some anti-Putin material.

Since the last presidential election, "the whole population has literally split into two parts", Dolgopolov says.

"On the one hand there are those who voted for Putin and on the other, those who can read and write and, you know, make logical decisions."

He also jokes that if Putin ordered his devoted supporters to jump into volcanic lava, they would simply appeal to him to lead them there.

Dolgopolov wrote on Instagram that he was "afraid" but not surprised by the reaction.

"Two years ago, it was village thugs chasing me. Now a whole country is after me, wow!" he joked.

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