As the Russia-Ukraine war continues to close in on its sixth month, the Kremlin has released a statement on Saturday threatening legal action against a Swedish newspaper after it published a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a clown while talking about memes.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a Zurich newspaper, published a piece about the images published online during the Russia-Ukraine war and their important role in the conflict. Among the images they had were Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Iron Man while Putin reportedly had a clown nose and colorful paint on his face, according to Business Insider.

The Russian embassy in Sweden sent a letter to the editor decrying what they perceived to be a disparaging image of Putin in spite of the fact that the newspaper article did not seem to be arguing that Putin himself was a clown.

The embassy also decried the fact that the article depicted Putin as a war criminal, as well as the colorful imagery on his face on the image, claiming that the rainbow colors conflict directly with Putin’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

The embassy said that “insults and fakes” were not covered by the freedom of speech mandate of the country and that they were going to ask officials from the Swedish government to do something regarding what they see as a disrespectful picture.

This news item comes as Putin attempts to cement his power in time for the 2024 Russian Presidential Elections, with the former senior director of the U.S. National Security Council Fiona Hill claiming that Putin remains afraid of protests that may happen against him, KTBS reported.

“He’s fearful of a repetition of what happened when he last returned to the presidency in 2011 and 2012, where we had protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other major [Russian] cities. Putin knows that there is a lot of dissatisfaction hidden beneath the surface,” she said.

“Putin’s going to worry about that as we get towards 2024 for another reason: There are people around Putin who believe he’s not justified in having this next set of two terms. He was supposed to end his term in 2024. He extended his ability to run again for another 12 years until 2036, which will put him into his 80s,” she continued.

As anti-Putin sentiments increase across Europe, a Swedish newspaper finds itself targeted by the Russian embassy after it published a meme photo of Putin as a clown. This is a representational image. Valery Tenevoy/Unsplash.

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