Jarring footage showing a reporter covering the opening day of the 2018 World Cup in Moscow being groped and kissed in the middle of a live broadcast went viral this week and sparked outrage around the world. Now the mystery man seen in the video has come forward to apologize and explain himself. He believes the uproar that followed his behavior was caused by a “misunderstanding,” but says he knows what he did was wrong.
The video showed Julieth Gonzalez Theran, a correspondent for German TV news agency Deutsche Welle’s Spanish-language channel, accosted by a bearded man wearing a blue hat as she was in the middle of a live shot. The man grabbed her, yelled into the camera and then planted an unwanted kiss on her cheek, before abruptly running away. On of his hands touched her left breast when he grabbed her.
In a post on Instagram, Gonzalez Theran called for an end to such behavior on behalf of all women reporters. “We do not deserve this treatment. We are equally as professional and deserving,” she said. “I share the joy of football, but we must identify the line between affection and harassment.
This week, the man reached out to Gonzalez Theran’s employer, DW, and asked for the chance to apologize to Gonzalez Theran. He also sat down for an on-camera interview about the incident that was conducted via Skype.
The man agreed only to identify himself by his first name, Ruslan, and claimed that what everyone saw on the video was “misinterpreted” and amounted to a big “misunderstanding.” Ruslan said he was acting on a dare from friends that would have him kiss a reporter on live television.
“I thought I put my hands on her shoulders, but apparently I missed a little and touched her chest with my left hand,” he told DW. “I would not have believed it myself, but looking at the video I realized that it looked ambiguous from the side.”
Over a Skype call and speaking English, he delivered a face-to-face apology to Gonzalez Theran. It was a rather extraordinary moment.
“I offer my most profound apologies,” Ruslan told her. “I know that your job is very hard and I hope that you will never face another such incident.” Gonzalez Theran responded, saying, “I appreciate [that] you reached out to me to apologize for your misconduct, and what happened was unacceptable and disrespectful. But, that’s the right thing to do — and I accept it [the apology].” She added that she refuses to be a victim and just wants to go on doing her job. “I wish you the best,” she said, adding that she hopes they can both move on from the incident.
As for Ruslan, some time to reflect on what happened helped him gain some perspective. “I imagined that my sister could have been in her place — or my mother. I wouldn’t have liked that at all,” Ruslan mused, adding, “My conclusion is that it is important to respect people’s personal space. You can only hug someone with their consent.”
Watch the interview and apology below.
Read the full story at DW.