Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has become the latest woman to accuse influential Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment.
Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who is often quoted by Western media, said on March 10 that "Leonid started saying things in a restaurant that I found very unpleasant."
"I was surprised to see that those present...did not say anything at the time and did not support me," she told Russia’s NTV television, adding that the incident took place five years ago "when I was not a well-known person."
"I completely oppose those who say that, 'See, she only makes this up now, she's that kind of girl, she does not dress properly, all of this is invented.'"
Zakharova joins three journalists who have gone public with their accusations.
The women -- Yekaterina Kotrikadze, a deputy editor at RTVI television; Dozhd TV producer Darya Zhuk; and BBC Russian Service correspondent Farida Rustamova -- have in recent days accused Slutsky of sexual harassment, saying he made crude, unwanted advances, trying to kiss them and touching them inappropriately.
Slutsky, 50, has denied wrongdoing and threatened to sue his accusers for defamation, but he did ask for forgiveness on Facebook on March 8, which Russia and other countries mark as International Women's Day.
"Using the occasion [of the holiday] I would like to ask forgiveness from those of you whom I have ever willingly or unwillingly caused any distress," Slutsky wrote. "Believe, me, there was no ill-intent."
Leading opposition campaigner Aleksei Navalny has called for Slutsky's ouster, and presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak and several activists have staged single-person protests outside the Duma.
Navalny expressed his solidarity with the journalists and called Slutsky, the chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, "a repugnant lawmaker." He also criticized other lawmakers who have publicly supported Slutsky in the face of the accusations.
"All those who support and shield Slutsky are horrible," Navalny wrote on his website. "And Slutsky himself is not only a revolting person, who humiliates and offends people by sexually harassing them, he is also a swindler."
Navalny accused Slutsky of corruption, posting what he said was evidence that he lives a lavish lifestyle -- that cannot be accounted for -- far beyond his means and deserves a "shameful ouster" from the Duma.
Sobchak, who is a journalist along with being a presidential candidate, staged a protest in front of the State Duma holding a poster that read "Lawmakers, we do not want you!"
Sobchak also accused presidential candidate and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky of "covering up" for Slutsky, who is a member of the LDPR.
With reporting by AFP, Ekho Moskvy, and Vedomosti