Putin laughs off topless protest by women's rights group Femen

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin laughed off a protest against him by topless women in Germany on Monday, joking that he liked what he had seen while sharply rebuffing German criticism of his human rights record.

Three members of the women's rights group Femen, which has staged protests against Russia's detention of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot around Europe, disrupted his visit to a trade fair in the German city of Hanover focusing on Russian business.

They stripped to the waist and shouted slogans calling the Russian leader a "dictator" before being covered up and bundled away by security men.

"Regarding this performance, I liked it," grinned Putin at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, adding that it had helped to promote the trade fair though he suggested that the security men could have been "gentler".

"I did not catch what they were shouting, I did not even see if they were blondes, brunettes or chestnut-haired ... I don't see anything terrible in (the protest), though I think ... it is better to be dressed if one wants to discuss political matters."

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the protesters of "hooliganism" and said they should be punished.

Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany, said people in a free society had the right to protest.

Putin and Merkel, who also held talks in Hanover on Sunday, want to further boost booming economic ties but the German leader also repeated her concerns about human rights in Russia after raids by Russian authorities on German and other non-governmental organisations based in the country.

A new law on NGOs requires them to register as "foreign agents" if they have foreign funding and are deemed to be involved in politics, something many prominent groups have refused to do on the grounds that they are not acting on behalf of other nations and are not trying to influence Russian politics.

For many, the term evokes Soviet-era oppression and Cold War espionage.

Putin, a former KGB agent who worked in East Germany in the 1980s and speaks fluent German, denied that the Kremlin was trying to muzzle the NGOs and said Moscow just wanted to monitor the amounts of foreign funding coming into Russia.

"All our actions are connected not with closing and forbidding (foreign-funded NGOs in Russia), but with monitoring financial flows that go to non-governmental Russian organisations which are involved in internal political activity, and this money comes from outside of the country," he said.

"Regarding the freedom of work of these organisations, it is not limited at all. They only have to register."

Putin said nearly 1 billion dollars had flowed to Russian NGOs in just four months since Moscow approved the new law - a figure swiftly queried by NGOs in Moscow.

"The talk of $1 billion is a lie," Pavel Chikov, the head of Agora, a Russian legal aid NGO, said on Twitter.

Merkel reiterated her government's criticism of the clampdown on NGOs, which have included several German foundations.

"This is about NGOs being able to work well and freely ... A lively civil society can only emerge when individuals can operate without fear or worry, of course on the basis of law," Merkel said.

The German chancellor added: "For Germany, Russia is an important strategic partner. We have the most intensive contacts that we would like to continue."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before