A tricolor flag from czarist days flashes on the television screen. A comedian mocks President Mikhail S. Gorba-chev. Could this be normal sober-faced Soviet television?

Not a chance.The Russian republic irreverently broke the Kremlin's monopoly on the country's television sets on Monday, beaming satire and hard news that challenged the president along with Soviet Central Television.

"Today is a special day, because today we stopped the monopoly of the airwaves," said Alexander Nekhorosho, one of the executives at Russian Television and Radio, told viewers.

Russian Federation leader Boris Yeltsin had complained for months that state-controlled Central Television had become a mouthpiece for the Kremlin, effectively instituting an "information blockade" on his republic.

On Monday, the All-Russian Committee for Radio and Television that Yeltsin founded last year as part of his challenge to central authority changed that, with its first night of regular programming.

"It used to be very easy to criticize Central Television, but now we mean to compete with it," Yeltsin said proudly in a taped message broadcast Monday night.

Leonid Kravchenko, who was appointed by Gorbachev as head of state-controlled Central Television, has been criticized by Yeltsin for pulling the plug on "Vzglyad" ("Viewpoint"), a popular show that featured investigative journalism and reformist commentaries, and banning from live TV three popular anchors of a late-night news-cast.

Kravchenko has said that state-owned media should speak with a single voice.