Journalist accuses politician of sexual harassment as MeToo movement hits Russia

July 27, 2020 0 By HearthstoneYarns

A female journalist has accused a top Russian politician of sexual harassment in the first such major scandal in Russia, where the ‘MeToo’ movement has largely attracted derision and domestic abuse was decriminalised last year.

Yekaterina Kotrikadze, deputy editor of RTVI, a Russian-language television channel based in New York, said Leonid Slutsky, now chairman of the foreign affairs committee, locked her in his office and began touching and trying to kiss her at a meeting in 2011. Three other journalists previously accused him of sexual harassment anonymously in an article carried by TV Rain.

Although Ms Kotrikadze, who was then working for a Georgian station, fended off Mr Slutsky’s advances and left, she said, she felt too intimidated to tell anyone about the incident. She said other journalists undergo similar harassment.

“We always understand that there’s no point to talk about this, you will only attract a huge amount of different insults and accusations of lying and political motives,” she said. “This happens, and no one is fighting it. It’s very scary.”

A representative of Mr Slutsky declined to comment when reached by The Telegraph. But he has dismissed the previous allegations and even joked about them on Facebook when another MP wrote he should “share” women with his fellow lawmakers. 

“Slow down colleagues! Where am I going to find so many journalist girls for you?” he responded.

Ksenia Sobchak, a liberal television personality who is running in March’s presidential election, said on Tuesday she had filed a complaint calling for an ethics investigation of Mr Slutsky. 

MP Oksana Pushkina said she would add sexual harassment punishments to a long-dormant equal rights bill, while parliamentary pool journalists reportedly asked the speaker of parliament to address Mr Slutsky’s behaviour.  

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But several other MPs have argued against taking action and even suggested TV Rain journalists should be stripped of their accreditation to parliament.

“We’re not in America and we’re not in Europe. Why should we copy everything?” said MP Tamara Pletneva, head of the family, women and children’s affairs committee. “If a woman doesn’t want it, no one will push himself on her.”

Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who has called for Mr Slutsky to be investigated, lays flowers on Wednesday at the spot where opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murderedCredit:
Sergei Fadeichev/TASS via Getty Images

Several Russian actresses and directors have voiced skepticism of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment. In November, five naked women staged a rally in support of Weinstein outside the US embassy in Moscow, holding signs declaring that “Harvey is a real man”.

Russia has increasingly turned toward traditional values in the current term of Vladimir Putin, who is all but sure to be re-elected in March. Gay propaganda was outlawed in 2013, and last February he signed amendments decriminalising domestic abuse. 

Mr Slutsky shakes speaker of parliament Vyacheslav Volodin's hand at a breakfast with businesspeople in Switzerland this monthCredit:
Anna Isakova/TASS via Getty Images

On Wednesday, presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of Mr Slutsky’s nationalist LDPR party, called Ms Sobchak a “whore” during an argument at a television debate in which she poured water on him.