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Russian embassy threatens Swiss newspaper after publishing Putin clown meme

They’re not clowning around.

The Russian embassy in Switzerland sent a legal threat to a Swiss newspaper after the outlet published a caricature of President Vladimir Putin wearing a clown nose and rainbow streaks across his face, according to reports.

The embassy’s press service, in a letter posted to its website Saturday, condemned the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung for publishing the image in a July 9 article about the role of memes and digital messaging in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Washington Post.

The article, titled “Between Superheroes and Villains: The Power of Memes in the Ukraine War,” shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky depicted in a Captain America-like suit with Ukrainian colors and symbols while Putin is next to him in a clown nose and rainbow makeup.

One of the embassy’s arguments against the image was the association between Putin and the LGBTQ community.
AFP via Getty Images

“If we are speaking about clownery, it would be much more appropriate to touch on this topic in the context of the recent past of the former Ukrainian comedian V. Zelensky,” the embassy said in its letter.

The “extremely outraged” embassy also argued “We believe that freedom of expression is in no way compatible with the freedom to disseminate insults and fakes,” according to the Swiss news outlet Swissinfo.

The Swiss outlet said the photo of Putin was originally posted on Twitter.

Russia also took exception to the rainbow colors associated with Putin because of its apparent connection to the LGBTQ community.

The embassy said Putin “is a deeply religious Orthodox person and advocates the preservation of traditional Christian values in Russian society (and he is clearly not a fan of the LGBT community),” according to the Washington Post.

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