Russia's Putin, EU's Barroso burnt on British bonfires

Russia's Putin, EU's Barroso burnt on British bonfires

LEWES, United Kingdom - Russian President Vladimir Putin in nothing but green underwear and European leader Jose Manuel Barroso are among those being paraded and burned during traditional British bonfire celebrations this week.

Effigies of the two leaders were unveiled as part of Guy Fawkes Night, a nationwide celebration on Nov 5 featuring bonfires and fireworks that marks a failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

The Putin effigy -- which had him sitting on a tank in a nod to Moscow's intervention in Ukraine -- was paraded through Lewes in southeast England on Wednesday, home of one of Britain's biggest bonfire celebrations.

The Russian leader was naked except for bright green underwear pulled over his shoulders, in the style of fictional comic character Borat.

Meanwhile, in Edenbridge in Kent, the local bonfire society unveiled a 10-metre (33-feet) effigy of Barroso, the Portuguese politician who headed the European Commission until last month.

The effigy held an EU budget bill in one hand -- referencing a recent £1.7 billion (S$3.5 billion) bill sent by Brussels to London recently, which has sparked a bitter row.

Dressed in a blue suit with the stars of the European Union flag and holding a British bulldog, the Barroso figurine will be burned on Saturday in Edenbrige bonfire celebrations.

"We do try very hard to pick somebody who's absolutely current in the news," said Jon Mitchell, a member of the local bonfire society.

"We only made the decision on Tuesday of last week and we started building Jose on the Thursday," he added.

Traditionally it is Guy Fawkes, leader of the "Gunpowder Plot", who gets thrown on the bonfire.

But in recent years, celebrities and public figures have become common.

Lewes festival, where flaming crosses are paraded in commemoration of Protestants burned at the stake in the 16th century, has been known for provocative choices since an effigy of Osama bin Laden in 2001.

Previous targets have included footballers Mario Balotelli and Wayne Rooney, French president Jacques Chirac and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Two large effigies of defeated Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond were withdrawn from the festival on Wednesday after a photo of one posted online caused a storm of protest.

The effigy of the Scottish first minister was dressed in a tartan outfit and holding a sign reading "45 per cent" -- the proportion of Scots who voted to break away from the rest of Britain in a close-run September referendum.

Online commentators said the figurine, which included the Loch Ness Monster wearing a traditional Tam o' Shanter hat, was anti-Scottish.

Sussex police said that "concerns have been raised" about the effigy and that a complaint would be investigated.

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