Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has condemned as "blasphemous" cartoons depicting the Sinai plane crash published in French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
"[The cartoons] have no relation to democracy, nor self-expression, nor anything else — this is blasphemy," Peskov said on Friday 6 November, according to the TASS news agency.
The latest scandal involving the magazine comes after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Russian president Vladimir Putin today suspended all flights to Egypt amid increasing fears the plane was brought down by a terrorist bomb.
Cartoons published in the notorious satirical magazine show an Islamic State (Isis) militant covering his head as plane wreckage and human body parts rain down. 'Islamic State: Russia's air force intensifies bombing,' reads the caption.
In another, a human skull is shown amid smouldering plane wreckage and human body parts. 'The dangers of Russian low cost flights' reads one caption. 'Should have flown with air cocaine,' reads another, alluding to a recent scandal in which French pilots were found to be trafficking cocaine.
Speaking to France's RFI radio station on Friday (6 November), Charlie Hebdo editor Gerard Briar responded to the criticism: "We are a secular, democratic and atheist newspaper. The term blasphemy has no meaning for us," he was cited as saying.
"The Kremlin is using this to detract attention from other problems," he added.
Russian politicians denounced the cartoons, with state Duma speaker Ivan Melnikov describing them as "dirty mockery" and "outrageous cynicism", reported Itar Tass.
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences after Islamic terrorists targeted the magazine in January, killing 11 members of staff. The magazine had previously published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which is considered sacrilegious by some Muslims.
Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation Council, said: "Remember the tragedy which happened in January 2015 concerning the publisher. I think that the journalists are provoking acts of violence," the Moscow Times reported.
Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the semi-autonomous Chechen Republic, called the cartoonists, "creatures" and "filth", and called on French authorities to close down the magazine. Kadyrov criticised the magazine after it published the Mohammed cartoons.