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‘I’m prepared to take a couple of journalist girls myself’ The #MeToo movement has finally arrived in Russia, and here's what Moscow officials have to say about it

Meduza

Over the past week, multiple Russian journalists have accused State Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the international affairs committee, of sexual harassment. On February 22, three reporters anonymously told the television network Dozhd that Slutsky made unwanted sexual advances in his office at the State Duma. One journalist says Slutsky only agreed to an interview after she agreed to have dinner with him. When they finally met, he allegedly tried to kiss her on the lips and grab her buttocks. On February 27, RTVI deputy chief editor Ekaterina Kotrikadze said Slutsky sexually harassed her roughly seven years ago while she was working for a Georgian television station. She says he tried to force her against a wall in his office, grabbing her and kissing her. Responding to Kotrikadze's allegations, Slutsky's spokesperson, Diana Rudakova, said, “There will be no comment. There will be no reaction.” Meduza reviews the other reactions from officials in Moscow to what has become the closest thing in Russia to a Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Pavel Gusev, head of the Moscow Journalists’ Union

“You know, I’ve been watching all this with surprise, with irony and even with a little laughter. After seven years, this person [Ekaterina Kotrikadze] suddenly starts saying that [Slutsky] somehow touched her in his office. [...] I take matters seriously when journalists are really harassed.”

Pavel Gusev / Facebook
Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesman, when asked if officials at the Kremlin are following the sexual harassment allegations against Slutsky

“No. They're not.”

Kremlin Press Service
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, LDPR leader

“This is suspicious. If there was any harassment on his part, then why did you wait until the election to ask me about this? Why didn’t you come to him with these allegations? Why didn’t you appeal to the ethics committee? [...] In LDPR, we don’t smoke, we don’t use alcohol, and we don’t harass women.”

Kremlin Press Service
Anton Morozov, State Duma deputy

“Mr. Slutsky, this is outrageous! Share some of this with the other members of the international affairs committee. I’m prepared to take a couple of journalist girls myself.”

Alexander Shcherbak / TASS
State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin

“All the incidents that have been voiced cannot but worry us, and no one can dismiss them, but this problem must be resolved within a legal framework. While one side blames the other, it would be wrong to treat anyone as guilty without an investigation. [...] This is the first time we’re hearing about this, after many years. We’re in constant communication with the parliamentary press pool, and this in any case would be grounds for an investigation. People are already reaching conclusions, of course, but how do you explain that we’re only hearing now about incidents that happened many years ago? The issue is part of information trends.”

Kremlin Press Service
Tamara Pletneva, head of the State Duma’s committee on family affairs

“We don’t live in America or in Europe. Why should we copy everything they do? If a woman doesn’t want [attention], then nobody will harass her. [...] I’m confident that women and men have had equal rights in Russia since 1917. They can study if they want, and they can work if they want.”

Anton Novoderezhkin / TASS / Scanpix / LETA
State Duma deputy Irina Rodnina, member of the ethics committee

“I don’t want to discuss it. If this is [these journalists’] greatest professional accomplishment, then what is there to say? I know about the similar scandal with Weinstein. I’d like to ask these actresses just one thing: if Weinstein had this reputation, why did they come to him? I think it’s strange that actresses were silent for 20 years, and then they decided to come forward. Well, great. We’ll sing songs to their glory. Fortunately, this practice hasn’t spread to Russia.”

Vladimir Fedorenko / Sputnik / Scanpix / LETA
State Duma deputy Oksana Pushkina, deputy chairperson of the committee on family affairs

“I can’t say for certain if I believe what journalists have said about Slutsky, but I’m sure that they’re obligated to bring any evidence to court in a lawsuit against the deputy. At the same time, we will review how the laws in this area function and fail. It would be great if, after all the Slutsky investigations, they wrote articles about how they struggled with this issue. We need to unite against violence and talk about it loudly. Only then will there be results.”

Vladimir Andreev / URA.RU / TASS
State Duma deputy Valery Gartung, member of the ethics committee

“I don’t know if the tendency [to talk openly about sexual harassment] that arose in the U.S. because of the scandal with Weinstein is catching on here, but I hope not. In the West, after all, it’s already been blown so wildly out of proportion. This conflict seems to affect people in creative professions, where the perceptions are a bit subtler. You know, if you refuse to give a woman attention, she might be offended. If a man does show her attention, she could also be offended. Where’s the line? It’s a very intimate question. Some people see an insult where others see attention. In 20 years of working at the State Duma, this is the first time I’ve encountered someone complaining that a deputy supposedly harassed them.”

Marat Abulkhatin / State Duma Press Service / TASS / Vida Press
LDPR faction leader Igor Lebedev, son of LDPR founder Vladimir Zhirinovsky

“I’m convinced that these women journalists have defamed State Duma deputy and international affairs committee chairman Leonid Slutsky. These girl-journalists who are trying now without evidence to accuse Slutsky of some kind of harassment should produce evidence of such actions. In the event that no evidence is presented, I think they should apologize at least, or even face defamation charges.”

Anna Isakova / State Duma Press Service / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Translations by Kevin Rothrock