Russian MPs unfazed by sexual harassment allegations

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Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky. (AP file photo)
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This video grab provided by TV Rain on March 2, 2018, shows Daria Zhuk, a producer at the TV station Dozhd, who recorded a video message to Slutsky, accusing him of using vulgar language and trying to touch and kiss her at the station's studio in 2014. (TV RAIN via AP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Russian MPs unfazed by sexual harassment allegations

MOSCOW: Sofia Rusova was a young political journalist in a provincial Russian city when a lawmaker pursued her with sexual text messages, staked her out and even assaulted her near her apartment.
“I was in shock and for some time I couldn’t walk the streets alone,” she says.
But she knew from prior experience that police would not react and most of her colleagues did not take the situation seriously.
“Some people who heard my story saw it as a funny adventure and told me I should be happy to be an object of such interest,” she says. In the end, she asked her father to confront the lawmaker and the pressure subsided.
Rusova’s story is typical in Russia, where sexual harassment is seen as a joke rather than a problem, even as the #MeToo movement sweeps across western countries.
In an unprecedented recent case, three women publicly accused senior lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of kissing and groping them.
They were accused of undermining his career for political reasons and being anti-Russian.
“You tried to force kisses on me, to touch me, you were rude and pushy,” one of the women, Daria Zhuk, said in a video appeal to Slutsky last week. “You still deny it?”
“Are you not ashamed to be working in Parliament and stoop to such low behavior?” said Zhuk, who works as a producer for independent Dozhd channel and said the incident occurred when Slutsky came to the studio for an interview.
Zhuk and two female reporters first made the allegations against Slutsky anonymously in February. He labelled them a political attack ordered by his enemies and even said the scandal “boosted my gravitas rather than took it away.”
“Attempts to make Slutsky into a Russian Harvey Weinstein look like a cheap and crude provocation... and are bound to fail,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
He proceeded to joke with his colleagues in the comments about dividing up female journalists, as another MP suggested he could also “take a couple.”
“We’ll discuss,” Slutsky replied.
Fellow lawmaker Anton Morozov went as far as to say the women were actors in a conspiracy. “Perhaps Russian journalists received an order from the West to compromise him,” he told Meduza news website.
Most female members of the Duma also lashed out at Slutsky’s accusers.
Oksana Pushkina, the only lawmaker who stepped up in the journalists’ defense, said fellow female lawmakers warned her that attempting to fight sexual harassment would harm Russia’s already low birth rate.
“It’s a catastrophe that we speak in such terms,” she told AFP.
Pushkina has proposed a bill on sexual harassment that would “make men control their hands and their emotions” in the work environment, but so far she has seen no support from her colleagues.
“I was told it would take me 15 years to make this law a reality,” she said.
Women’s rights were in theory at the center of the early Soviet project and International Women’s Day, March 8, remains a public holiday in Russia.
But in reality the main change to most women’s lives in the USSR was that they were expected to have a job as well as run a home.
In recent years those rights have suffered additional blows as the government extols conservative views on gender roles and labels feminism a hostile Western trend.
Punishment for domestic abuse was softened last year, for example, with most abusers now only paying a fine and facing no time in custody.
Even cases of rape rarely make it to trial, said Pushkina. “Sexual harassment cases all fall apart at the stage of a complaint.”
President Vladimir Putin, who has led the country for almost two decades, is certainly no feminist.
In 2006 he appeared to praise the sexual stamina of Israel ex-president Moshe Katsav who was subsequently forced to resign over rape accusations.
“What a powerful guy he turned out to be! Raped ten women! I didn’t expect that, he surprised us all! We all envy him!” Putin was quoted as saying at the time by Kommersant newspaper.
“Chances are, nothing will happen to Slutsky and he will keep his mandate,” said Alyona Popova, who heads feminist association The W Project.
Rusova was also pessimistic. “People will take the side of the person of authority, because our society is such that it is easier to blame the woman,” she said.
“When you find yourself in this situation, you have nowhere to go.”


India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

Updated 22 September 2018
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India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

  • Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
  • Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”

DELHI: India’s prime minister was under fire over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after comments by former French President François Hollande. Hollande was quoted as saying Narendra Modi’s government had influenced the choice of a local partner.
Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
The opposition, led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, spent the past year alleging that the deal is a scam, in which India is overpaying for jets and the government is allowing a private company — billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense — to benefit instead of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
On Friday, Hollande, who cleared the intergovernmental deal when he was in office, was quoted as saying New Delhi had put pressure on Dassault to choose Reliance.
“We had no choice. We took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was reported as telling the French news service Mediapart, fueling a political storm in India.
The Indian government, however, has insisted all along that it had nothing to do with Dassault’s decision to work with Reliance Defense.
Under Indian defense procurement rules, a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip the Reliance Defense procured the contract .
“The PM personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to ...Anil Ambani,” said Mr. Gandhi in a tweet.
Gandhi further tweeted: “The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a ... SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defense forces. Modi Ji you dishonored the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul.”
Gandhi repeated the charge in a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.
The BJP, however, says that there is no corruption.
“The fact that two sovereign heads of States negotiated a deal means that there is no room for corruption,” said Sudesh Verma, BJP spokesperson.
Talking to Arab News Verma emphasized that “the highest integrity was maintained in the deal. Now the Congress is not talking of corruption but favoritism. Merely by saying that Reliance Defense was favored by us would not cut any ice. These are insinuations and are irresponsible.”
Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”
“No matter what the indian government says that perception is that the Indian government gave the offset contract to Anil Ambani, a guy who has no history of producing defense equipment,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi based political analyst.
He added: “The halo around Modi has been severely diminished after the recent revelations. This is something which it would be very difficult to live it down now.”