Reporter accuses Russian presidential candidate of groping
MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian television news reporter has accused a six-time Russian presidential candidate of groping him years ago, and nearly 300 journalists signed a petition Friday against another top Russian lawmaker in a sexual harassment scandal.
While pressure is mounting on prominent lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, accused by three women of sexual harassment, a male reporter has come forward with accusations against Slutsky’s boss, 71-year-old ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Zhirinovsky, a veteran of Russian politics, finished a distant third in Russia’s presidential election Sunday, capturing 5.6 percent of the vote.
Renat Davletgildeyev, a respected reporter with Radio Free Europe’s Current Time TV, said Thursday that Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) groped him at an event he covered in 2006 when he was 20.
Davletgildeyev said on Current Time TV that after groping him, Zhirinovsky’s entourage offered to have him join the LDPR leader at a private sauna.
The journalist said he had shared the story with friends but decided to speak publicly to express solidarity with the three women who have publicly accused Slutsky of sexual misconduct.
Zhirinovsky has not commented on the accusation but his son, also a Russian parliament member, denied it and called the comments “slander.”
Slutsky is the chairman of the State Duma’s foreign affairs committee, one of the country’s most influential lawmakers.
One of his accusers, Farida Rustamova of the BBC’s Russian Service, said in a story this month that during a visit to Slutsky’s office last March, he urged her to dump her fiance, then “ran his hand, the flat of his palm, up against my nether region.”
Slutsky initially mocked the accusations, but later, facing public outrage, said he didn’t mean to offend anyone.
After the parliament’s ethics committee found no violations in his conduct, nearly two dozen media outlets recalled their reporters from the Duma in protest. Even local businesses have joined the boycott: a pub across from the Duma posted a statement on its Instagram page, saying neither Slutsky nor his supporters are welcome.
In a bid to raise the pressure on Slutsky, nearly 300 journalists signed a petition on Friday, calling on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to condemn him for his “reprehensible abuse of power.”