Emirates 24/7
Jan 31 2012

A club dedicated to the life and work of Vladimir Putin has opened
in the Armenian capital Yerevan, immediately sparking a satirical
backlash from critics mocking Russia's strongman.

Admirers of Putin opened the club in Yerevan as a venue where young
people can take part in discussions, watch films and read books about
the Russian premier, his homeland and his idea for a 'Eurasian Union'
of ex-Soviet states.

"We decided to name the club Putin because he is the strongest leader
in the post-Soviet region," its manager, Ararat Stepanian, told AFP.

"He interests us not only as a political leader but as a man -- how
he spends his free time, the types of sports he plays. He is worthy
of respect," Stepanian said after the launch.

The club is decorated with a huge portrait of the Russian premier and
a photo display following his career in politics, and its backers from
several youth organisations say that a network of similar venues will
open in other cities.

But a group of young Armenian Facebook users staged a satirical parody
of the club on Tuesday at the rival Cluboratoria in Yerevan.

They played the Russian anthem, toasted Putin with vodka and chanted
the slogan: "He leads us down the shining path, he gives us hope,
we are for Putin -- forward!"

"People are outraged and are calling the club idiotic and shameful,"
one of the protest's participants, Edgar Barseghian, told AFP.

"We want to say that we will not allow someone, as a result of their
political interests, to come out in the name of society and Armenian
youth and disgrace our country," he said.

Moscow is Yerevan's main economic and military partner, and the
Armenian parliament last year agreed a deal to allow Russia to maintain
a military base in the country until 2044.