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Duma ethics commission dismisses harassment alegations against senior MP

March 21, 19:35 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The State Duma‘s commission on ethics has found no signs of ‘inappropriate behavior’ in the case of senior parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky accused of sexual harassment by three female journalists

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MOSCOW, March 21. /TASS/. The Russian State Duma‘s commission on ethics has found no signs of ‘inappropriate behavior’ in the case of senior parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky accused of sexual harassment by three female journalists, commission’s head Otari Arshba said on Wednesday.

"The commission sees no violation of code of conduct by Leonid Slutsky," says the commission in its decision received by TASS. The document, approved on Wednesday, said the commission had looked into two complaints - from Dozhd Television producer Darya Zhuk and BBC Russian Service’s correspondent Farida Rustamova.

"The commission draws attention to the fact that the two female applicants voiced their claims against colleague Leonid Slutsky practically at the same time, during the presidential election, and also quite long (one to three years) after the alleged incidents. This body of facts, according to the members of the commission, indicates that the actions of the applicant parties were selective, purposeful as well as planned," the decision said.

Arshba went on to say that the Duma’s commission does not have "due tools to check such claims, including for carrying out necessary and envisaged by law expertise (including of audiotapes)". "The commission is not authorized to give expert assessment to audio messages and other allegations mentioned in the appeals," it added.

"If the colleague journalists, who have submitted applications, believe their materials, evidence can be handed over to the law enforcement agencies, it is their right," Arshba said. "We, the commission, listened to Darya Zhuk, Farida Rustamova and Slutsky, having found no such facts in the submitted materials," it stated.

According to Arshba, many members of the commission on ethics repeat the question what had prompted the female journalists "to speak practically simultaneously right amid the election campaign, and why this came back to their memory a year, or four and seven years after the incidents".

Chairman of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky told reporters early in March that sexual harassment allegations against him were a paid campaign that actually boosted his standing.

The senior lawmaker rejected all allegations, saying that he "will look into" to going to court or not. "It is strange that no Ukrainian and American women have filed these sorts of charges," he said, commenting on accusations made by Georgian journalist Yekaterina Kotrikadze, the RTVI TV channel’s deputy chief editor. Slutsky also said that the incident appeared to have bolstered his authority instead of depriving him of it.

"Women have never complained about any inappropriate conduct on my part," he said. "I believe, the better we work the more such things will emerge. If no professional faults can be found, then things like this will be cooked up," he noted.

According to earlier reports, several female members of the parliamentary journalist pool, whose names were not made public, voiced accusations against Slutsky. After that Georgian journalist Yekaterina Kotrikadze, the RTVI TV channel’s deputy chief editor openly accused him of sexual harassment. The website of journalist Ksenia Sobchak, a candidate running in the presidential election, announced that she had asked the State Duma commission on ethics to investigate Slutsky’s conduct.

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