Yelena Mizulina, the Russian lawmaker described as “Vladimir Putin’s new morality crusader” and co-author of the country’s new “homosexual propaganda” ban hailed by Religious Right activists in the US, is now going after opponents of her policies.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Mizulina is having authorities question journalists, politicians and comedians who criticized her ultraconservative laws. One politician said he was quizzed about the details of “Mizulina’s gay-oral phobias” and RFE/RL’s Dmitry Volchek writes that the “news agency Rosbalt says investigators asked for the names of journalists who have written about Mizulina.”
An online petition, noting Mizulina’s aggressive anti-gay activism and attempt to ban swear words on the internet, requests that the health ministry “check the mental health” of Mizulina to determine if she is fit to serve in the Duma.
The barrage of caustic jokes it has generated on the Internet has riled Mizulina, who now accuses several journalists and public figures of defaming her by claiming she is bent on eradicating oral sex in Russia.
Socialite and opposition activist Ksenia Sobchak, who was interrogated last week after making such a claim on Twitter, says investigators repeatedly asked her why she thought Mizulina held such views.
Journalists Yelena Kostyuchenko and Olga Bakushinskaya, as well as former Deputy Prime Minister Alfred Kokh, have also been questioned.
“Two lieutenant colonels from the Russian Investigative Committee clarified for three hours details about Mizulina’s gay-oral phobias and my own relation to this,” Kokh wrote on his blog.
Sobchak said a dozen people are on what she branded the “Mizulina List.”
Insulting an official is an offense in Russia that carries fines of up to 40,000 rubles ($1,200) and up to one year of community service. Libel is punishable by a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($30,000).
Internet users accuse the authorities of seeking to silence one of the last arenas of free speech in Russia.
The news agency Rosbalt says investigators asked for the names of journalists who have written about Mizulina and denounced the request as the first “attempt by a Duma deputy to interfere in the agency’s editorial policies” in its 12-year existence. An online petition launched by stand-up comedian Yury Khovansky, who is calling for the lawmaker to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, has already gathered more than 60,000 signatures.
If signed by 100,000 people, the petition will be submitted to the State Duma.
“What she is doing, and this ‘Mizulina List,’ is an unprecedented threat to freedom of speech,” Khovansky says. “If people are now prosecuted and fined for expressing their opinion on the actions of officials — who are actually elected by the people — you can just imagine what will happen to media freedom and openness more generally.”
Mizulina, whom detractors have nicknamed “The Inquisitor,” has tirelessly warned against Russia’s moral and demographic decline. She and her committee have penned a string of initiatives aimed at instilling traditional values in Russians, including a ban on cursing and a tax on divorce.