Vladimir Putin topless protest: Femen activist speaks out
Vladimir Putin may have "liked" the topless feminist protester who confronted him with an obscene slogan daubed on her back – but she is less than impressed with his response.
Alexandra Shevchenko, who stripped to the waist in front of the Russian president as he toured a trade fair in Hanover alongside German chancellor Angela Merkel, told The Daily Telegraph that he was "really stupid".
Mr Putin claimed to have been entertained by the demonstration, telling a press conference afterwards: "As for the protest, I liked it."
Speaking in Berlin today, Ms Shevchenko, 24, said: "Putin is a bastard. If you're a normal person you have to be against him. The most important [criticism] for us is human rights, the rights of women, this situation with Pussy Riot. Of course we don't want to say this is all he's done – he has committed a lot of other crimes.
"I think his answer was really stupid. It was really in this Russian, post-USSR style. The president of a European country would never say something like – I like her, in such a sexual way. He does it because he's a stupid man."
Ms Shevchenko was one of a group of five female protesters who confronted the two world leaders on Monday morning. She had a slogan in Cyrillic on her back, reading: "F*** you Putin" – which she chose, she says, "because it's really simple".
The women have been released by the police, while authorities in Germany decide whether they will face charges.
The women are members of Femen, the feminist group who have become famous for semi-naked protests, including burning a Salafist flag in front of the Grand Mosque in Paris.
Ms Shevchenko, who studied business administration, helped found the group in Ukraine in 2006 to campaign against the sex industry. The group has been protesting topless since 2010 - and, she said, the group will soon be establishing itself in the UK.
Describing the moment she rushed towards Mr Putin, Ms Shevchenko said: "There was a lot of his security and a lot of police around him, a lot of journalists. So we have to find some gaps and just jump through them.
"When I was running at him we were looking at each other's eyes. He was very, very surprised and thinking in this moment, thinking he will do something with his security. It is their mistake."
Mr Putin attempted to laugh off the incident later, saying that the organisers of the Hanover event should "say thank you to the Ukrainian girls, they helped you promote the trade fair".
He added: "To be honest, I didn't really hear what they were shouting because the security [guards] were very tough. These huge guys fell on the lasses. That seemed not right to me, they could have been handled more gently."
"Topless protest – I think this is the only effect that can work," Ms Shevchenko said. "This way of protest is being used by women all over the world. In new countries, in Mexico, in the US, in Brazil, France and Germany.
"When a woman's nudity is not controlled by men, when she's not using it to entertain men, or to give them sexual satisfaction or advertise men's products – when she's using her sexuality for her own aims, political aims – that really makes patriarchy irritated. And you can see the result."
That result, according to Ms Shevchenko, has been regular threats of violence against Femen activists. She cited the recent fatwa against the activist in Tunisia who posted a topless image of herself online, and the abduction of a group of activists by secret service agents in Belarus.
Femen claim that three activists who travelled to Minsk, in Belarus, were kidnapped and held naked in a forest overnight. While there, they were threatened with lighters and knives. The Belarus secret service denies the allegations.
Ms Shevchenko has been in Germany since the end of January establishing a local chapter of the movement. She said that it had begun activities in Britain too.
She said that Femen lacked the media profile to attract many new supporters in the UK, while bail conditions imposed by the courts made activism difficult.
"There is a little bit less information about Femen in the UK, less than in Germany, France, it's not so easy for women [in Britain] to understand who we are and start to become Femen. And when we talk to all these activists, activists from the UK, we're really shocked that after all the protests, they have this punishment, that they cannot participate in other protests."
Mr Putin was in Hanover to open the trade fair, where Russia has a pavilion, and hold talks with Mrs Merkel.
After visiting Germany, he travelled to the Netherlands, where he faced protests from gay rights activists, who blew whistles and played loud dance music outside his meeting with the Dutch prime minister.
The activists accuse Russia of discriminating against homosexuals. Russia's parliament has given preliminary approval to a ban on "homosexual propaganda" targeting minors.
Putin: “I Enjoyed Topless Protest in Germany!”
Femen activists have organised yet another half-naked protest at a trade fair in Hannover where the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As the leaders of the two countries examined a Volkswagen stand, girls lurking in the sea of journalists stripped to the waist and broke through the cordon and began chanting obscene slogans in English. They also had obscene messages painted on their bodies in English and in Russian. The protest didn’t last long and the girls were quickly overpowered by the security guards and taken away. The guests continued their inspection of the exhibition stands. Later, at a press-conference Vladimir Putin said that he knew of the impending protest by representatives of the Femen group, and liked it, according to Interfax. “In terms of the protest, I enjoyed it. In principle, we knew that they were preparing something like this. Thank you, Ukrainian girls, you’ve helped kick the exhibition off to a great start.” The Russian President also remarked that the protests by the Ukrainian feminists is nothing new and not to be feared. He expressed doubt that such actions may serve political goals. “If someone wants to argue about political issues, it is better to do it clothed, not naked. There’s a time and place for getting undressed” Mr Putin stressed. The Russian President even felt sorry for the girls, who were overpowered by the guards.
He added: “To be honest, I didn’t really hear what they were shouting, because the security guards are very firm. These big guards swooped down onto the girls, I don’t think that’s right, they could have handled them a bit more gently.”