To paraphrase an old Russian saying, Moscow does not believe in memes. Authorities in the Russian Federation have outlawed an image of President Vladimir Putin done up in effeminate clown makeup, giving the famously homophobic former KGB colonel a flamboyant look, according to The Washington Post. Framed by a rainbow flag and featuring exaggerated red lipstick and eyelashes, the symbol has been spread far and wide via social media and displayed at gay rights marches in Eastern Europe, and now it's illegal.
The Moscow Times says the image first appeared on the Russian social network Vkontakte and was uploaded by a user named A. V. Tsvetkov. Last week, Russia’s Justice Ministry added the image to its index of banned extremist materials, a list that is now over 4,000 entries long. The image was originally banned by a local court in the city of Tver, which said in their ruling that the image “hints at the Russian president’s allegedly nonstandard sexual orientation.”
Putin, who came to power in 1999, has been routinely criticized by LGBT rights activists for backing repressive laws in Russia that target the gay community. Under his leadership, Russia has also restricted free speech, both in the press and on social media, where people can be prosecuted under “Internet Extremism” laws. In an article in Tass, Russia's state-run news service, a spokesman said he didn’t think the image would bother the famously macho president, who has been photographed shirtless riding a horse and brandishing a hunting rifle.
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