Annual New Year news revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “beheaded” after a television news gaffe.
The mistake resulted in viewers only seeing the lower part of Putin’s face during a news channel broadcast in Kaliningrad, the country’s westernmost region.
The 68-year-old appeared with cut-out eyes and forehead as he spoke to Russians against the backdrop of the Kremlin.
The station’s embarrassing scandal in the region was attributed to a “technical glitch” rather than political protests.
Kaskad TV did not apologize to the president, but said in a statement that those responsible would be “punished”.
The annual President’s address is traditionally broadcast a few minutes before midnight in each of Russia’s eleven time zones and has a status similar to that of the Queen’s Christmas Day embassy in Great Britain and the Commonwealth.
A video of the mistake was recorded by a shocked viewer in Kaliningrad, and the incident sparked quick comments on his “beheading” on social media.
“Have the guilty been shot yet?” asked a commentator.
“He’s a KGB man, after all, nobody should see his full face,” wrote another.
“Everyone knows that there is only botox up there,” said one more.
Another viewer remarked that this was “a pretty brave channel” while another post predicted: “Kaput to Kaskad TV”.
The TV station’s editors saw the mistake and canceled the show on both TV and the Internet and replaced it with music.
“Problems with the picture during the broadcast of Vladimir Putin’s New Year’s address were caused by a technical malfunction in the radio room,” said the station’s red-faced bosses.
“An investigation into the incident is still ongoing.
“Anyone who is guilty will be punished.
“The Kaskas Media Group sincerely apologizes to the audience.”
A few minutes earlier, a New Year’s message from the regional governor Anton Alikhanov was shown without mishap.
Due to its location on the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad is the last Russian region that Putin’s address hears an hour after Moscow.
Putin used the broadcast to complain about the difficulties of Covid-19, but also to urge the Russians to believe in themselves.
He noted that “not all of us are at the New Year’s table” due to deaths and illnesses caused by the coronavirus, but praised the work of doctors and emergency services.
He told the Russians: “The new dangerous virus has changed and turned the usual way of life, work and study upside down, and it has forced many plans to be revised and changed.
“But our world is so big that the trials of life are inevitable.”
He said: “Today it is especially important to believe in ourselves, not to withdraw in the face of difficulties, in order to preserve our unity, as this is the basis for our future mutual success.
“I am sure we will overcome everything together, restore and maintain normal life and continue to solve tasks that Russia is facing.”
His New Year’s broadcast lasted six minutes, a record for him, but shorter than his predecessor Boris Yeltsin’s famous message that ushered in the year 2000 and announced that former KGB spy Putin was the new incumbent president.