- The Washington Times - Friday, November 6, 2015

The Kremlin blasted a pair of cartoons in the latest edition of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo seemingly mocking the Russian plane crash over Egypt that killed all 224 people aboard.

“This has nothing to do with democracy, self-expression or whatever,” Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said, Russia’s state-controlled Tass news agency reported. “It is pure blasphemy.”

One of the cartoons shows a member of the Islamic State groups covering his head while debris from the Metrojet plane falls around him with the caption reading, “Russia’s air force intensifies its bombing,” International Business Times reported

Russia has been conducting airstrikes in Syria since the end of September.

The cartoons drew angry reactions from Russians on social media, with the head of the Rodina Party calling the drawings “Rusophobic art.”

Lawmakers at the Russian State Duma called on the government to blacklist the French magazine as extremist literature.

“The caricatures are overgrowing the boundaries of French journalism. They are so sacrilegious that they require some kind of reaction from the French officials. Their silence will mean their taciturn consent to Charlie’s usurped right to mock and scoff at the tragedy,” Alexey Pushkov, the head of the Russian State Duma, told TASS.

Gérard Briard, editor of Charlie Hebdo, dismissed the Kremlin’s comments.

“We are a secular, democratic and atheist newspaper. The term blasphemy has no meaning for us,” he said speaking with the Russian branch of French radio station RFI, the Moscow Times reported. “The Kremlin is using this to detract attention from other problems.”

Charlie Hebdo has a long history of publishing controversial cartoons, including images of the prophet Muhammad and other airplane disasters, including images depicting the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

The magazine’s office was the target of a jihadist terrorist attack in January in which 12 people died.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of Saturday’s crash. U.S. and British authorities speculate that the plane may have been downed by a bomb, possibly planted by an Islamic State sympathizer.

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