Russia foreign ministry spokeswoman is latest to accuse MP Leonid Slutsky of sex harassment
The influential Russian parliament member has earlier issued an apology after several female journalists accused him of harassment
Russia foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has become the latest woman to accuse senior lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment.
Four journalists have accused Slutsky, the head of the Duma’s foreign affairs committee, of inappropriate sexual conduct over the past few weeks.
“Leonid started saying things in a restaurant that I found very unpleasant,” Zakharova told Russia’s NTV television when asked about the claims.
“I was surprised to see that those present … did not say anything at the time and did not support me,” she said, adding that the incident took place in Saint Petersburg 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.”
Three of the journalists have gone public with their accusations, which include making lewd sexual comments and groping, breaking the silence on a subject that remains largely taboo in Russia.
Farida Rustamova, who works for the BBC’s Russian service said her incident took place a year ago, while she was interviewing Slutsky about a visit to Russia by the French presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen.
The BBC said it has a recording of the conversation but it has decided not to publish it.
During the conversation, Slutsky asked Rustamova if she would like to come to work for him.
When she declined his offer, he allegedly replied: “You’re trying to get away from me, you don’t want to kiss me, you’ve hurt my feelings.”
Slutsky has labelled the claims as “cheap, low-grade provocation” and dismissed them as a political attack ordered by his enemies.
He even said the scandal “boosted my gravitas rather than took it away”.
However on International Women’s Day on Thursday Slutsky apologised for the first time.
“I would like to apologise to those of you I have wittingly or unwittingly caused distress,” he said on Facebook.
“Trust me, I meant no harm.”
The 50-year-old MP in the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party has been widely supported by his colleagues so far, including the party’s leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who accused the women of “receiving orders from the West”.
Additional reporting by The Guardian