Putin scolds Russian customs over racy video

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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday rebuked the head of the Russian customs service after a slick music video of his officers going wild in their offices became a viral Internet hit.

The video, filmed by customs officers in Russia's Far Eastern port of Vladivostok, shows the normally strait-laced officials dancing, uncorking champagne and even dive bombing across the floor in their offices.

The slick editing and pulsating Russian rap soundtrack made a massive YouTube hit out of the video, which also shows the officers in fancy dress and one female worker rubbing customs forms against her breasts.

However Russia's de-facto number one was less amused at a meeting with the head of the Federal Customs Service Andrei Belyaninov, saying such creativity was better used elsewhere.

"Discipline needs to be lifted in some areas a little," Putin said dryly in comments broadcast on state television. "I also like a laugh and a joke but artistic creativity is best left for the house of culture."

In Russia, a house of culture is where people go for amateur theatre, music and painting classes.

"You know what I'm talking about," he added knowingly.

"Their talent needs to be put to use somewhere else. But not at work. At work they need to work on implementing customs rules and doing their job."

Bravely, Belyaninov appeared to try and defend the Vladivostok customs officers, describing them as "talented people, talented in everything."

"I do not argue with that," Putin shot back. "But the question is where that talent is used."

Apparently deciding it was unwise to have a televised argument with the all-powerful Putin, Belyaninov promised the prime minister that "this will not happen again."

"Many thanks for the criticism," he added.

The video -- reportedly shot for a New Year's party -- has been watched almost 1 million times on YouTube, where it can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyVmPyUC1-s

The video amazed Russians used to seeing wooden-faced and surly customs officials at airports and ports.

But inhabitants of the Russian Far East pride themselves on having an independent streak and often look down with scorn on the actions of the authorities thousands of kilometres away in Moscow.

© 2011 AFP

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