The Kremlin has denounced French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo over a set of cartoons about the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt.
On Sunday, VK, one of Russia’s largest social media networks, said the magazine’s cartoons had been the most discussed topic by its more than 100 million active users over the weekend.
“Insane cynicism and a mockery of the memory of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” wrote one Twitter user, Anna Isayeva.
The French magazine published two cartoons after Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, killing all 224 people on board.
The first drawing showed a passenger’s skull, with the caption: “The dangers of Russian low cost” flights.
The second showed the plane’s debris falling on a bearded fighter, with the legend: “The Russian air force is intensifying its air strikes.”
On Friday, Dmitry Peskov, the Russian government spokesman, said he thought the cartoons were “pure blasphemy” and had nothing to do with democracy or freedom of expression.
Russian politicians lined up on state TV over the weekend to echo his criticism.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, used Facebook to ask: “Is anyone still Charlie?”
It was a reference to the catchphrase, “Je Suis Charlie”, used to express sympathy with the French magazine after assailants killed 11 people at its Paris headquarters in January.
Her question had attracted almost 4,500 “likes” by Sunday evening, along with an avalanche of comments, many of them expletive-laden.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, also weighed in, saying he thought the cartoonists responsible for the two images were not human.
Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, was quoted in the French media as saying the accusation of blasphemy was “absurd”.
The French foreign ministry said in a statement on its website that journalists in France were free to express their opinions, but that they did not reflect the views of the French government.
“We were among the first to express our condolences to the Russian people and authorities on Saturday, as soon as we learned of this terrible tragedy,” the ministry said.