Irina Rodnina, a pro-Putin Russian MP, is being accused of racism after she posted on Twitter a photoshopped image of US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michele, looking at a banana.
The picture posted by Rodnina, a member of the Duma Lower House of Parliament, reminded some of the practice of some racist soccer fans, to hold up bananas at black players. This crude slur is still seen at some matches in Russia.
The photograph was picked up by opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who reposted it on Friday evening saying Rodnina was "making a joke".
Rodnina deleted the message and photograph on Saturday but wrote: "Freedom of speech is freedom of speech! Deal with your hangups yourself," and noted that the post had boosted her rating. She added that the photograph had been sent to her by someone in the United States.
A member of the Duma's ethics committee, Yan Zelinsky, told the Russian News Service radio that he does not see anything wrong with the tweet. "She sees the president of the United States as liking bananas. What's the big deal?" However, other journalists blasted Rodnina for racism.