No, this is not an April Fools joke. Russia’s ministry justice has banned an image of Vladimir Putin in clownish make-up that hints at the “allegedly non-standard sexual orientation of the Russian president” as “extremist” material. A rash of recently passed Internet extremism laws has allowed the government to silence critics
by shutting down their websites and sentencing anyone who shares or even “likes” banned posts to prison. The image was one of many that became popular at protests against the country’s anti-gay laws in 2013. It was posted by man named A. V. Tsvetkov in the social media site Vkontakte, which led to a court case last year
that prohibited that image and many others. Tsvetkov was not found criminally liable, but he was ordered to get compulsory psychiatric care and had his Vkontakte account deleted. When asked about Putin’s reaction to the image, a Kremlin spokesman said
that: “As a person, he might be stung, but as president he is quite resilient to these vulgarities and has learned to brush them off long ago.” The gay clown poster is now number 4,071 on a list of 4,074 entries.