Moscow: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday made his debut as a chat show host on a Kremlin-funded channel with a deliberately shocking choice of first guest -- the leader of Hezbollah.
While still under house arrest in London, the founder of the whistle-blowing website spoke via video link to Hassan Nasrallah, whom both the United States and Israel consider a "terrorist."
Russia aired the show, called "The World Tomorrow," with fanfare on its international RT news channel.
The multi-lingual channel, which makes no secret of giving the Russian take on world affairs and has the slogan "Question More," built up anticipation by promising the first guest would outrage many.
"I won`t be surprised if after the first show the hawks want not just to shut down Assange but us as well," channel director Margarita Simonyan wrote on her Twitter account, while stressing the guest was Assange`s choice.
In his introduction, Assange called Nasrallah "one of the most extraordinary figures in the Middle East," and said he would examine why he is viewed by some as a "freedom fighter" and others as a "terrorist."
Speaking from what was described as a secret location in Lebanon, Nasrallah beamed genially as he laid out the group`s position on the Syrian conflict, flanked by the flags of Lebanon and Hezbollah.
He criticised the "American hegemony" and described Israel as an "inimical state" in comments dubbed into English in what the RT described as his "first interview in the West since the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war."
During the half-hour show, Assange sat at a desk in a small room wearing a creased white shirt, with books and recording equipment visible on shelves behind him.
RT scored a media coup by securing the show, while Assange said in a promotional interview that he had chosen the channel because it had higher penetration in the United States than Al-Jazeera.
Russian observers said the show`s overtly provocative stance was bound to attract attention and in some ways chimed with Russia`s foreign policy, which has featured anti-American statements during the presidential campaign.