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Duma Speaker To Female Journalists: 'Change Jobs' To Avoid Harassment

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Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin (file photo)

The speaker of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, has told female journalists who report from the legislature to change their jobs if they face sexual harassment from lawmakers.

Volodin made the remarks to a group of female journalists on March 7, the eve of International Women's Day, which is a Russian state holiday.

Volodin said recent sexual harassment accusations made by female journalists against senior lawmaker Leonid Slutsky were "attempts to discredit" Slutsky.

"Is it dangerous for you to work in the Duma? If so, then change your jobs," Volodin said.

Volodin is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and previously served as the deputy chief of Putin's presidential office.

Volodin's remarks came a day after a BBC journalist accused Slutsky of sexual harassment.

Farida Rustamova, from the BBC's Russian Service, is the third journalist to publicly accuse Slutsky of improper behavior.

Rustamova recorded audio of the incident, which took place a year ago. The BBC says it is in possession of the recording, but has decided not to publish it.

Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky (file photo)
Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky (file photo)

Slutsky, who chairs the Duma's International Relations Committee, denied all accusations and has threatened to take the accusers to court for defamation.

Slutsky is a member of nationalist firebrand politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

Rustamova visited Slutsky at his Duma office on March 24, 2017, to get a comment about a visit to Russia by then-French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

I would like to say that these girl journalists should look more decent, put clothes on themselves when entering a state building, instead of having their tummy buttons naked."
-- Tamara Pletnyova, chairwoman of the Duma's Family, Women, and Children Affairs Committee

She said Slutsky unexpectedly changed the subject during the discussion and asked Rustamova if she would like to leave the BBC to work for him, the British broadcaster said on its website on March 7.

When she refused, she says he complained by saying: "You're trying to get away from me, you don't want to kiss me, you've hurt my feelings."

The BBC says that, in the recording, Rustamova is heard telling Slutsky she has a boyfriend that she hopes to marry.

"Great, you'll be his wife, and my mistress," Mr Slutsky says, according to the BBC report.

According to Rustamova's account, Slutsky then approached her and, in her words, began "running his hand, the flat of his palm, up against my nether region," the BBC reports.

Farida Rustamova was one of the anonymous sources who initially made accusations against Slutsky, before deciding to speak openly.

Last month, Darya Zhuk, a producer at the Dozhd (Rain) independent Internet TV channel, and Yekaterina Kotrikadze, deputy chief editor of Russia's RTVI television company, both openly accused Slutsky of sexual harassment.

On March 7, the chairwoman of the Duma's Family, Women, and Children Affairs Committee, Tamara Pletnyova, expressed support to Slutsky, calling him an "educated professional... who would never offend a woman."

"I would like to say that these girl journalists should look more decent, put clothes on themselves when entering a state building, instead of having their tummy buttons naked," Pletnyova said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio. "Volodin is right and I fully support him. If they are scared and are offended, they should not come here."

With reporting by bbc.co.uk, Ekho Moskvy, and Vedomosti
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