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MOSCOW - One of Russia's top lawmakers on Wednesday joined conservative criticism of the Tajik-born feminist due to represent Russia at this year's Eurovision contest, describing her song as nonsense and questioning how she was selected.
Manizha, 29, is set to perform "Russian Woman" at the Eurovision song contest in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam in May. Her song urges women to empower themselves and takes aim at social pressure on women to beautify themselves, find a man or have children.
Manizha, a singer whose full name is Manizha Sangin, has also campaigned against domestic violence and promoted LGBT rights, was chosen to represent Russia on state television in a vote earlier this month.
But her choice has irked social conservatives and a Russian Orthodox Christian group.
On Wednesday, Valentina Matvienko, the head of the upper house of parliament and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, joined the outcry, saying that Channel One should be asked to explain the procedure for selecting entrants.
"For those of you who aren't familiar with the text of the song, I recommend you acquaint yourselves with it. ... It's some kind of nonsense. I don't understand what it's about at all," she said.
"It's all very strange to say the least," she said.
Matvienko made the comments after another lawmaker, Elena Afanasyeva, said that many Russians were surprised by the choice of Manizha as well as by her song, which she said was devoid of meaning, the RIA news agency reported.
"In the regions, frankly, there is no limit to the surprise: there is discontent and a lack of understanding as to why there is such trolling of our Russian women," the Novaya Gazeta newspaper quoted her as saying.
Putin has championed the Russian Orthodox Church and socially conservative traditional values, while backing legislation against so-called "gay propaganda" to minors.
Russia's Union of Orthodox Women has called publicly for Manizha to be banned from the contest, saying that her stage image was deeply insulting and offensive to Russian women, and that her performance was tantamount to inciting interethnic hatred. REUTERS