A man poses with the new issue of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo at a cafe in Nice..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Officials in Moscow angrily denounced the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Friday for publishing cartoons lampooning the plane crash which killed over 200 people, most of them Russian tourists, in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula earlier this week.
"In our country we can sum this up in a single word, sacrilege," a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin is quoted as saying by the AFP wire service. "This has nothing to do with democracy or self-expression. It is sacrilege."
All 224 passengers aboard a Russian airliner bound for St. Petersburg that took off from the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday were killed when the plane dropped out of the sky over the Sinai Peninsula.
While investigators have not definitively pinned down the cause of the crash, Western intelligence agencies say signs point to a bomb that may have been planted on board the jet.
Sinai has been the epicenter of an Islamist-fueled insurgency against the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo
published illustrations showing debris from the plane falling on an Islamic State gunman, with the caption saying: "The Russian air force is intensifying its bombardments."
In late September, Russia began deploying military forces in Syria as part of efforts to salvage the regime of its ally, President Bashar Assad. It has since been conducting air raids and bombardments against Assad's enemies, namely Sunni rebels and Islamic State.
In another cartoon, a skull is depicted among the wreckage of a plane, with a caption that reads: "The risks of Russian low-cost flights."
The French satirical weekly, which has attracted controversy over its provocative cartoons that have mocked religious figures like the prophet Mohammed, gained worldwide sympathy earlier this year after Islamic extremists armed with heavy weaponry broke into its offices in Paris and shot dead a number of its staff.
The latest cartoons have stirred anger in Russia to the point where "Charlie Hebdo" and "I'm not Charlie" are trending topics among Russian users of Twitter.
"It's not satire but filthy mockery," the deputy speaker of the lower house, Ivan Melnikov, said in remarks aired by Russian television.Charlie Hebdo
editor-in-chief Gerard Biard rejected the Russian criticism, accusing the Kremlin of "using Charlie Hebdo
to create a controversy where none exists - which is the usual manipulation you get from totalitarian regimes."