Another diplomatic scandal threatens to spoil Russian American relations. Russian Parliament member and one of the most successful figure skaters in the world, Irina Rodnina, tweeted a racist picture of President Obama and his wife Michel Obama.
The controversial picture was sent to Irina Rodnina by one of her American friends. President Obama was depicted at a sports event chewing with his mouth full. After some digital manipulations turning a picture into a nasty collage, it looked like he and his wife were fascinated by a banana the author put on the foreground. The Russian parliamentarian immediately twitted the picture not realizing that the whole world would see it in a matter of minutes under her name.
One day later, on September 14, after the indignant response from the internet community she removed the picture from her Twitter account. However, she justified her action by referring to the freedom of speech so praised in the USA, and thus indirectly confirming that she tweeted the picture.
The Tweet has already caused a reaction from the USA Embassy in Russia. Since the picture was on Twitter, they also twitted back the quote from Thomas Jefferson.
— Посольство США в РФ (@USEmbRu) September 14, 2013
Unlike American diplomats, Russian parliamentarians seem to support their colleagues. Vladimir Gartung, a member of the Russian parliament Ethics committee, responded to the situation saying that Irina Rodnina has the right to tweet anything she likes. Another Ethic committee member, Yan Zelinsky, commented that she did not break any Russian law and therefore has the right to web anything.
Unfortunately, the fact that Irina Rodnina tweeted such a nasty picture is not an accident. While Russian law started prosecuting gays and artists “insulting” the feelings of religious people, Russian society is very tolerant to racist views of any kind. Recently, Yelena Isinbayeva, twice an Olympic champion pole vaulter, made a speech supporting the anti-gay law during her victory press conference on the Worlds Athletics Championship in Moscow. Though she was cheered in Russia by most of the public, she faced outrage from the international sports community and apologized later. She blamed naivete of the English language for the misunderstanding. Irina Rodnina did not apologize, but tried to get rid of the picture.
Irina Rodnina is probably the most famous figure skater in the world. She is three times champion of the Olympics and 10 times World champion. After winning all her titles for the Soviet Union, she lived and worked in the USA from 1990 to 2002 training young figure skaters, but returned to Russia and started her political career.
Since 2006 she has been a member of Public Chamber of Russia. In 2007 she became a member of the Russian parliament.
Unlike her indisputable sport achievements, her political career is controversial. In 2005 she allegedly signed a letter supporting the sentencing of Michael Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch who openly stood up to Vladimir Putin, but later, in 2009, she denied signing the letter. However, she undeniably supported the Russian Parliament law that banned the adoption of Russian orphans by American citizens and was hugely criticized by the opposition and part of the Russian society that previously loved her, but was shocked by her inhuman decision.
The Racist picture of President Obama and his wife Michelle is another blow to her fans in Russia and around the world, but since she is representing the Russian political establishment, it is also a blow to Russian – American relations.
By Alsu Salakhutdinov