Russian President Vladimir Putin has said footballer Artem Dzyuba’s X-rated video leak should not be held against the star in his professional life, but cautioned that the scandal was a “good lesson” for the player.
Speaking at his traditional end-of-year press conference on Thursday, Putin was asked about the infamous video – which was leaked in November and featured Zenit St. Petersburg and Russia forward Dzyuba pleasuring himself in bed.
The player was subsequently dropped from the Russian national team for the next three games and was stripped of the captaincy at club team Zenit.
READ MORE: ‘I’m not perfect. We’re all sinners’: Grateful Russia captain Dzyuba thanks supporters after viral masturbation clip (VIDEO)
Putin was asked by a journalist whether incidents such as this from the private lives of sports stars and celebrities should have any bearing on their professional careers.
“The answer is probably obvious: of course it shouldn’t,” Putin replied.
“Let him deal with his personal matters himself. To meddle in someone’s personal affairs is unworthy of a normal society.”
The Russian leader did warn, however, that people in the public eye should bear in mind that there are “general rules” and that Dzyuba had learned a harsh lesson.
“He’s a public person, it was inevitable for him. For him and other public people, it’s a good lesson – keep this in mind.
“Second, keep in mind that there are general rules, and it’s better to stick to them,” Putin added.
“[But] should this be reflected in professional activities? Of course not.”
Putin then rather mischievously asked the female journalist whether she had seen the X-rated clip herself.
“I watched it but not until the end,” replied the woman, to laughter from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and others in the audience.
“I didn’t see it,” Putin promptly clarified as the discussion moved on.
Hackers had reportedly demanded $5 million from the 32-year-old Dzyuba not to release the clip, and the Russian security services are now investigating the case.
Dzyuba emerged as a hero at Russia’s home World Cup in 2018, starring as the team went on an unlikely run to the quarterfinals.
It was a story of personal redemption for the big forward, who had been sidelined from the team in the build-up to the tournament, only to become one of the team’s key leaders. He was later elevated to captain by manager Stanislav Cherchesov.
READ MORE: ‘We didn’t dismiss him’: Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov says Artem Dzyuba was dropped to RECOVER from masturbation scandal
In dropping Dzyuba for Russia’s previous three matches, Cherchesov said he merely intended to take some of the heat away from the striker and has said he will be recalled for the next set of games in March.
Dzyuba’s video scandal prompted widespread debate in his homeland, appearing as a topic of discussion on daytime television and even prompting a female flashmob to take to the center of Moscow in his support.
A flight manager for Russian airline Pobeda was fired after one of the company’s planes traced a penis with its flight path in the sky, in an apparent show of support for Dzyuba on a trip from Moscow to Ekaterinburg on November 11.