A pro-Kremlin Russian MP is facing claims of racism after she posted on Twitter a doctored photograph of US President Barack Obama looking at a banana.
The picture posted by Irina Rodnina, 64, a member of the Duma Lower House of Parliament, evoked the brandishing of bananas at black players by some football fans, a crude racist slur still seen at some matches in Russia.
The photograph was picked up by the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who reposted it on Friday evening saying, "Look at the jokes Russian MPs make."
|The picture posted by Russian MP Irina Rodnina.
Rodnina deleted the message and photograph on Saturday but insisted she believed she had done nothing wrong.
"Freedom of speech is freedom of speech! Deal with your hangups yourself," she wrote on Twitter, saying the post had boosted her rating.
She claimed that the photograph was not hers and had been sent to her by someone in the United States.
A member of the Duma's ethics committee, Yan Zelinsky, concurred in comments to Russian News Service radio. "She sees the president of the United States as liking bananas. What's the big deal?"
Others inside Russia and across the world were critical of the picture. Tikhon Zyadko, a journalist, responded on Twitter that: "Duma deputy Irina Rodnina doesn't hide she is a racist".
"Maybe this is everyday racism. Maybe it's that she was badly brought up and has a warped sense of humour," wrote the deputy editor of the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, Aider Muzhdabayev in a blog.
"The main thing is that Rodnina did this, and she doesn't regret it a bit."