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Russian birthday banner for President Obama alludes to ‘Three Wise Monkeys’

It's President Obama's birthday (he's 53), and a few people in Russia marked the occasion by hanging a banner that appears to compare him to the "Three Wise Monkeys."

The banner reads: "Don't see. Don't hear. Truth for no one" — an apparent play on "See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no evil."

The building from which the banner appears to be hung is not near the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, but rather the Consular Section.

It's unclear who, exactly, is behind the birthday greeting, though according to the Moscow Times, which cited a report from RT, a group of students hung the banner to protest "the U.S. government's hypocritical handling of the situation in Ukraine."

RT, Russia's state-run news channel, posted a video that shows three individuals unfurling the banner.

Pro-Kremlin politician Konstantin Rykov also tweeted out an image of the banner.

The substance of the message is clearly a critique of the president. But the allusion to monkeys is racially charged — and it's not the first time it's happened to Obama in Russia. Last year, Russian politician and former Olympic gold medal figure skater Irina Rodnina tweeted an altered photo showing Obama with a banana.

Rodnina took the photo down but also tweeted: "Freedom of speech is freedom of speech! Deal with your hangups yourself." And a member of her ethics committee said: "She sees the president of the United States as liking bananas. What's the big deal?"

Then-U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul called Rodnina's tweet "outrageous behavior, which only brings shame to her parliament and country."

Black athletes in Russia have received similar treatment. In 2011, a fan threw a banana at Brazilian soccer star Roberto Carlos. "I am really upset at what happened," he said later. "I am used to there being no racism in football."

Isabelle Khurshudyan contributed to this post.

Elahe Izadi is a general assignment national reporter for The Washington Post.



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