Topless protesters disrupted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tour of an industrial fair in Germany yesterday as he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel clashed over Moscow’s recent NGO crackdown.
Putin and Merkel were taking in a presentation of a new car model at the Volkswagen stand by Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn when the four bare-breasted women started chanting “fuck dictator.”
At least one of the women had the same words painted in black ink across her torso and “Go fuck yourself, Putin” in Russian on her back. The demonstrators were overpowered by security personnel.
Merkel and Putin were attending the Hanover Messe in northern Germany, where Russia is this year’s guest country.
At a press conference later, the two leaders, whose personal rapport is notoriously strained, crossed swords over recent Russian probes of a number of international NGOs, including German think tanks.
“I noted that we support a vibrant civil society,” Merkel told reporters. “We spoke about the raids at the political foundations and I said that we are afraid that as a result the NGOs cannot thrive in the way we would like.”
Putin insisted the searches had been justified as Russia had a right to monitor the activities of foreign groups on its soil, and asked whether the organizations funding could not be put to better use.
“That money — a billion dollars is not small change — could have been sent to help problem countries, including Cyprus,” he said.
He brushed off the topless protest, saying with a wolfish grin that he had “liked it,” but remarked: “But it’s better not to upset the order. If someone wants to have a discussion on some political issues, then it’s better to do it while you are dressed, and not take your clothes off. You should take your clothes off in other places, like nude beaches.”
The leaders also covered North Korea, with Putin welcoming a US decision to delay the test of an international ballistic missile to avoid stoking tensions with North Korea.