MOSCOW (AP) — An influential Russian parliament member accused of sexual harassment by several female journalists has issued an apology and asked for forgiveness.

The allegations against Leonid Slutsky by three journalists include groping and making demeaning comments.

On Thursday, noting it was International Women's Day, Slutsky said on Facebook that "I am using the occasion to ask forgiveness from those of you whom I freely or involuntarily caused suffering. Believe me, the intent was not malicious."

Earlier Thursday, demonstrators including opposition presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak held pickets outside the parliament demanding the resignation of Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee.

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