Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, appeared at a college in Moscow to discuss a #MeToo scandal currently taking place in Russian Duma. An MP named Leonid Slutsky (yes, really—that’s him pictured above) has been accused of sexually harassing three female journalists over the last several years. A few days ago an investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing. But during the discussion, Peskov brought up the allegations against disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein and compared the accusers to prostitutes. From the Guardian:

Peskov said if the allegations against Slutsky were true, the women should have spoken out sooner, and suggested the claims could have been made now because sexual harassment had become “fashionable”.

“If he groped you, if he harassed you, why did you remain silent? Why didn’t you go to the police?” Peskov asked, echoing a widespread sentiment in Russia over the allegations.

Peskov said the case reminded him of the situation surrounding Weinstein. “Maybe he’s a scumbag, but nobody went to the police and said ‘Weinstein raped me’. No, they wanted to earn $10m. What do you call a woman who sleeps with a man for $10m? Maybe I’m being crude, but she’s called a prostitute.”

Maybe I’m being crude but Peskov sounds like an idiot. One obvious problem with this (among many) is that few if any of the women Weinstein allegedly cajoled, threatened, and forced to have sex with him made $10 million. Some were offered roles in projects and refused his advances. Others may have gone along with him and never got anything out of it. Most importantly, some were (allegedly) raped and had no choice at all. I guess Peskov missed all of that.

As for MP Leonid Slutsky, he has also scoffed at his accusers.

One of the women, Ekaterina Kotrikadze, said that Slutsky locked her in his office in Russia’s lower house of parliament when she approached him for an interview seven years ago.

“He asked me to come without a camera,” she said in a live broadcast on the RTVI television station, where she is now deputy editor. “He brought me into his office, locked the door and tried to pin me against the wall and somehow kiss and touch me. I got away and ran.”

Kotrikadze made her accusation against Slutsky after others from anonymous women appeared in the press. He brushed them off. “Attempts to make Slutsky into the Russian Harvey Weinstein just look like a cheap, shoddy provocation,” Slutsky wrote on Facebook…

There have been prominent public campaigns against sexual assault and domestic violence in Russia. The largest was #Янебоюсьсказать, or #IAmNotAfraidToSay, a campaign popularised by a Ukrainian activist named Anastasia Melnichenko that encouraged thousands of women in Ukraine and Russia to share stories of assault widely viewed as shameful or taboo in the public eye.

But the social media campaign peaked in 2016 and then passed. In 2017, the Duma passed new legislation to decriminalise domestic abuse, downgrading assaults of spouses or children that result in bruising or bleeding but not broken bones to just 15 days in prison or a fine, if they do not happen more than once a year. Previously, they carried a maximum jail sentence of two years.

While I’m not a fan of RT, this segment does a decent job of explaining the story, including some translated video of the accusers.