Russian president Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were confronted by three topless protesters with slogans painted on their torsos at a trade fair in Hanover. The women, reportedly part of the activist group Femen, shouted "dictator" as they were removed from the scene, and Putin looked on in amusement.
At a press conference after the event, Putin said "as for the protest, I liked it." The Telegraph reports that Putin told event organizers they should “say thank you to the Ukrainian girls, they helped you promote the trade fair.”
Putin also added that it seemed like the security guards were "too rough" on the three women.
"These huge guys fell on the lasses. That seemed not right to me, they could have been handled more gently [...] I didn’t make out whether they were blondes, chestnut-haired or brunettes.”
The group has criticized Putin over the arrest and conviction of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral last year.
Russia has called on German authorities to punish the women. “This is ordinary hooliganism and unfortunately it happens all over the world, in any city. One needs to punish (them),” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Gay rights activists protesting over recently introduced Russian legislation which bans “homosexual propaganda” among minors are expected to greet his visit to Holland Monday. The law, in effect in several regions, has been widely criticised as homophobic.