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Sobchak Calls For Sexual-Harassment Probe Against Senior Duma Deputy

Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee

Presidential candidate and journalist Ksenia Sobchak has called for an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma’s International Relations Committee.

In a statement posted on her campaign website on February 27, Sobchak said that if the allegations are true, "such actions by a deputy would be a direct violation of" the law on the status of members of the Federation Council and the State Duma.

Slutsky, who is a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), has denied the allegations, which were made by at least three female journalists who cover the Duma.

TASS reported on February 27 that the Duma's Ethics Committee had not received Sobchak's complaint.

In response to the allegations, deputy Duma speaker Igor Lebedev, also from the LDPR, proposed revoking the Duma accreditations of Dozhd journalists.

On February 22, Zhirinovsky appeared on independent TV Dozhd and journalist Yelizaveta Antonova, who covers the Duma, asked him if he was aware that Slutsky "constantly harasses young female journalists." Zhirinovsky said he would look into it. The following day, two additional journalists, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Dozhd they had been harassed by Slutsky.

A Dozhd producer claimed Slutsky had tried to kiss and grope her before an on-air appearance.

Slutsky on February 23 told the newspaper Vedomosti that the accusations were "an election-campaign provocation."

Duma Deputy Oksana Pushkina said the scandal around Slutsky had prompted her to introduce amendments to a draft law on gender equality that would criminalize sexual harassment.

"If there are facts," she told Kommersant about the Slutsky case, "then the matter should be carried to its conclusion. This [behavior] is flourishing in our society."

In recent months, a vigorous campaign against sexual harassment and sexual assault in the United States has led to accusations against numerous high-profile men including movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Louis C.K.

In Russia, however, the campaign has been generally mocked, and a small demonstration in support of Weinstein was held in front of the U.S. Embassy in November 2017.

"Thank God we live in a country where political correctness hasn't reached the absurd," Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky told Izvestia in November. "When you can't call a man a man, a woman a woman, and you have to call them a person."

In April 2014, Zhirinovsky was censored and apologized for an outburst in which he ordered his aides to rape a pregnant reporter:

He later claimed he had been on medication at the time.

With reporting by Dozhd, Vedomosti, TASS, and Kommersant