Is ‘Putin is a thief’ a (potentially illegal) insult? Putin's press secretary thinks so.
Since a new law banning online insults against the Russian government went into effect on March 29, Russian prosecutors have been busy determining what is insulting and what is not. So far, they have found illegal insults not only in slurs against President Vladimir Putin but also in news stories about those slurs. Today, however, a case against an activist who hung a banner that read “Putin is a thief” was shut down on a technicality by the Supreme Court of Tatarstan. While the message was not posted online and was therefore investigated under a different law, it gave Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov a chance to comment on the banner’s message in an interview with Ekho Moskvy. That exchange is translated here.
Ekho Moskvy: We’ve received new information from Naberezhnye Chelny. The Supreme Court of Tatarstan has shut down an administrative case against a man who hung up a banner with a message about Vladimir Putin. Why are some messages considered insulting while others aren’t? Who decides which is which?
Dmitry Peskov: I don’t know. What did the banner say?
Ekho Moskvy: “Putin is a thief.” I’m sorry, that’s a quote.
Dmitry Peskov: I understand. What do you think of it?
Ekho Moskvy: I don’t know. And what does the president think — is that insulting or not?
Dmitry Peskov: Well, I think that absolutely is insulting. That’s my personal opinion.