Tough new jail sentences should be introduced for those found guilty of insulting Russia’s president, one of the country’s most influential MPs has argued, citing public outrage over a worsening war of words with the White House.
In a television interview aired on Sunday, State Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky, from the right-wing LDPR party, which is frequently supportive of the Kremlin, said that Vladimir Putin has increasingly been the subject of undiplomatic criticisms. He pointed to remarks made earlier this month by US President Joe Biden, who was asked whether he thought his Russian counterpart was “a killer.”“Mmm hmm, I do,” Biden replied.
Slutsky said that these comments were an attack “not on Putin, but on the whole country,” and that lawmakers would therefore react “rather harshly” to similar statements in the future. “We need to increase the punishment for those who offend the president,” he added. “The president protects the country, protects all of us, and therefore our legislation should better protect the head of state.”
“I have looked up certain data [on punishments for insulting heads of state], and we have something to strive for,” Slutsky said. “Belgium has two to three years in prison [for insulting the head of state]. Denmark, from three to four years. France has a fine of up to 45,000 euros. Spain has six months to two years [behind bars].”
Biden’s comments were widely panned by Russian officials. The speaker of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, added his voice to those claiming they were indicative of a diplomatic rift. The politician argued that “this is a tantrum that comes from powerlessness. Putin is our president, attacking him is an attack on our country.”
The Russian president was more muted in his own reply to the White House, however, saying that judging other countries “is like looking in a mirror.”
“When I was a kid, when we were arguing with each other in the playground, we used to say, ‘whatever you say [about others] is what you are yourself,’” Putin added. He said that Moscow would stand up for its own interests on the international stage, and “the US will have to reckon with this, despite their attempts to stop our development via sanctions and insults.”
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