Putin suggests #MeToo movement is a media conspiracy

Russian president questions allegations made decades after harassment took place

Vladimir Putin has spoken out against the #MeToo movement that has shaken powerful institutions around the world by revealing a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and assault – but has so far failed to find a foothold in Russia.

Echoing criticisms from the Russian establishment, Putin questioned why women were coming forward decades after the alleged attacks took place and said he believed the allegations should be addressed by the courts rather than in a media campaign. He presented it as something of a conspiracy.

“Certain people or certain organisations that specialise in protecting the rights of women are currently developing an entire process in several western countries, in Hollywood, raising problems that are 10, 20, or 30 years old,” he told reporters shortly after a four-and-a-half hour question and answer show called Direct Line with Vladimir Putin. “I think we need to support the interests of all citizens without regard to gender, religion, age, but the question still begs itself: why is this only being done now? Why not 10 years ago when some of these incidents supposedly took place?”

He said that in “any civilised country” the courts and the police should handle similar cases.

“I don’t think that we should turn these questions, especially concrete cases, into some kind of campaign,” Putin added.

Scores of women have come forward as part of the campaign to reveal sexual harassment and assault by some of the most powerful men in politics and media, among other industries.

Harvey Weinstein, the most high-profile target, was accused by more than 13 women of rape, assault and harassment. He was charged with rape and pleaded not guilty to a judge in New York on Tuesday.

Putin was asked directly about several accusations of sexual harassment made against Leonid Slutsky, a Russian lawmaker who has been accused of attempting to kiss and grope young female journalists in the Russian Duma and at television studios. Slutsky was cleared by an ethics committee in Russia’s parliament earlier this year.

“I haven’t heard about this story,” Putin told journalists.

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