MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia said on Monday it would probe Euronews after the news channel broadcast footage of Ukrainian fighters using the portrait of President Vladimir Putin, styled as Hitler, for target practice.
Russia's communications watchdog said it would examine the footage following a request from a ruling party lawmaker who said the video was an insult to the Russian strongman and the entire Russian people "who survived the horrors of World War II".
The spokesman for the Roskomnadzor communications watchdog, Vadim Ampelonsky, said it was too early to say whether Russian authorities would move to punish the channel based in Lyon, France.
He added however that the watchdog usually issues a formal reprimand if a media outlet is found guilty of inciting hatred. Two reprimands within the space of a year give authorities legal grounds to suspend the broadcasting of a channel in the country.
"This case would be out of the ordinary for any channel, especially such a respectable channel like Euronews," Ampelonsky said.
On Friday, the multilingual channel showed masked Ukrainian soldiers using a portrait of Putin, depicted with a moustache and hairstyle to resemble Hitler, as a target during shooting exercises.
"We are training them for war," an instructor says in the video. "To survive in war conditions and eliminate the enemy during the occupation or the invasion of Russian troops."
The United Russia lawmaker who requested the probe, Mikhail Markelov, said the channel should formally apologise for the broadcast.
"I request that prosecutors begin an investigation and give an appraisal of the video which harms Russia's national interests," Markelov said.
In his letters to the communications watchdog and the general prosecutor's office, the lawmaker said the video of the firing exercises "incites racial hatred and hatred towards man".
Euronews confirmed that it had showed a Reuters Television report showing fighters training in a forest.
"Euronews does not censor its content whether it is self-produced or coming from trusted and reputable news agencies," the channel said in an emailed statement. "The footage where the 'portrait' of Russian President appears is only three seconds over a two-minute story."
A Russia representative of the European channel's supervisory board, said earlier Monday that Euronews did not intend to insult anyone.
Speaking on Echo of Moscow radio, Pyotr Fedorov said Euronews had earlier showed US President Barack Obama with "donkey ears" and Germany's Angela Merkel wearing a Nazi uniform.
Kiev and the West accuse Putin of sending regular troops into Ukraine to prop up separatists battling government forces. Russia has denied the claims.
Hatred of the Russian strongman runs deep in Ukraine where rolls of toilet paper featuring a portrait of Putin and profanity-laced slogans condemning him have proved very popular.
Since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March, criticism of Putin and his policies has become a virtual taboo on mainstream Russian television.