Kremlin downplays 'hooligan' cake attack on opposition leader
The Kremlin on Wednesday downplayed a cake-throwing attack on opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov and denied it was linked to a threat last week by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Late Tuesday, two men approached Kasyanov in a central Moscow restaurant and "shouted threats" before throwing a cake at him, the Parnas party leader said in a statement.
Kasyanov, who as a former prime minister is guarded by federal security services, said he filed a police report over "threats to my life and safety" and police said they were looking into a breach of public order.
The attack came after Chechen leader Kadyrov last week posted a threatening Instagram image of Kasyanov and his deputy in the crosshairs of a sniper's rifle.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted the cake-in-the-face incident was unrelated to Kadyrov's threat, calling it a "hooligan stunt, which of course should be condemned."
"Here you should not equate anyone with the Chechen leadership," Peskov told journalists, directing further questions to the Federal Guard Service, the equivalent of the US Secret Service, which protects Kasyanov.
Kasyanov described his attackers as of "non-Slavic appearance with a strong Caucasus accent", adding that some 20 men were waiting outside the restaurant.
The sensationalist Life News website, known for its links to security forces, published a video of the incident, showing two dark-haired bearded men in dark suits approach Kasyanov and push an iced cake into his face.
Men can be heard shouting "Disgrace to Russia!" and "American agent!"
- Similar scenarios -
Kadyrov later posted on Instagram a photo of himself laughing and clapping at a Russian pop star after a similar pie-in-the-face stunt.
The singer is "going to all the international courts asking for a second helping," Kadyrov wrote jokingly, adding slice of cake emoticons.
But Kasyanov said he took the incident seriously, seeing parallels to the murder of his opposition ally Boris Nemtsov a year ago this month.
"These are similar scenarios, but thank God that this time it was just verbal threats and a kind of light physical force," he told Echo of Moscow radio.
Nemtsov was shot dead in February last year as he crossed a bridge near the Kremlin.
Kasyanov had earlier Tuesday given a radio interview on Kommersant FM radio station during which he called Kadyrov's sniper video "a public call to action, a public threat."
He has asked security services and investigators to carry out a formal probe into Kadyrov's sniper post as a death threat.
Moscow police briefly detained three Chechen police officers outside the restaurant, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported, citing its own sources.
Kasyanov did not identify the Chechen officers as his attackers but the reason for their presence was unclear, it reported.
A Russian hashtag meaning KasyanovCake was trending Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.
"Jokes about Kasyanov and the cake are made by stupid people," wrote opposition politician Alexei Navalny on Twitter.
"Today it's a cake, tomorrow it's a stone, the principle is the same."
© 2016 AFP