Putin says rape comment was 'lost in translation'

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The Independent Online

The Kremlin has tried to explain away President Vladimir Putin's joke about rape charges against Israel's President, blaming difficulties in translating from Russian to English.

Mr Putin's comment to the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow appeared to be a joke about 60-year-old President Moshe Katsav. "Say hello to your President, he really surprised us," Mr Putin said to Mr Olmert as reporters were being ushered out. "I met him. He didn't look like a guy who could be with 10 women."

But Russia's Kommersant daily claimed Mr Putin said: "He turns out to be a really powerful guy. He raped 10 women ... We all envy him."

Deputy Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "In no way can [it] be considered as an approval of raping women or an appreciation of such a potential action. Sometimes, translation from Russian into English does not reflect the essence of a joke. This was such a case."

Israeli police have recommended that Mr Katsav be charged with rape, aggravated sexual assault and misconduct with women staff. He denies any wrongdoing.

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