Three women Russian journalists have accused high-profile lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of three different accounts of sexual harassment. In response to the accusations, the lower house speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told the women that if they feel unsafe, they should “change [their] jobs.”
Slutsky, who heads the International Affairs Committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, brushed off the accusations, claiming them to be a part of a foreign political conspiracy. The stories that accompany the allegations against Slutsky are consistent with one another – all three women had been lured by the incentive of conducting an interview with the politician where he then propositioned, groped, or forcibly attempted to kiss them.
Editor of RTVI, a Russian television network, and Slutsky accuser Ekaterina Kotrikadze claimed that several years ago, Slutsky “brought [her] into his office, locked the door and tried to pin [her] against the wall and somehow kiss and touch [her]. [She] got away and ran.”
Another Russian TV channel producer, Dariya Zhuk, said that Slutsky refused to show up to an interview unless Zhuk accompanied him to dinner. When she arrived, he behaved in an unpleasant and inappropriate manner and Zhuk eventually had to call upon her colleagues to intervene.
BBC published the transcript of a recording of an encounter with Slutsky that was taken by Farida Rustamova, the third alleged victim to come forward. “You’re trying to get away from me, you don’t want to kiss me, you’ve hurt my feelings,” Slutsky told her.
Upon being shown the recording, Slutsky said, “I don’t feel people up. Well, OK, just a little. ‘Feel people up’ is an ugly expression.” Slutsky has denied all of the allegations and joked that people are trying to “project him as Harvey Weinstein.”
Volodin, whose office position puts him second in line to the presidency, suggested that the allegations are an attempt to discredit the Russian government in a pre-election campaign strategy.
“Russians are now told this is not America, where men and women are considered the same,” said Alexandra Arkhipova, an anthropologist at the Russian Presidential Academy. “Instead, it’s OK for men and women to be treated differently.”
Arkhipova theorizes that because of the country’s history of war, persecution, and early mortality, men are demographically the minority and are considered to be a “prized resource…fed and tolerated despite their alcoholism, womanizing and bad behaviour.”
For many Russian women, she explained, harassment means interest.
Currently, Russia does not have any laws in place to protect victims of sexual harassment. The emergence of the #MeToo movement has brought awareness of the issue to social media at a global rate, and Russian activists and lawyers are hoping to introduce consent into the law.
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