Police in the Russian city of St Petersburg have seized a number of pieces of art, including a satirical portrait of President Vladimir Putin wearing women’s underwear, for violating undetermined laws.
Officers also removed a painting of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church with his torso covered in prison tattoos, and two other pictures which poked fun at lawmakers who backed the country’s extremely controversial law banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships”.
The seizures were made at the Museum of Power gallery in St Petersburg, which is based on two rooms of an apartment building. After reports that the exhibition, titled Leaders, was illegal, the police moved in on Monday.
Police said the exhibition was in violation of certain laws already in place, however did not specify which. The country does have a law against insulting authorities, which carries a maximum prison term of a year.
One of the paintings seized featured Putin wearing a tight women’s undergarment, and brushing the hair of the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who wears black knickers and a bra.
Vitaly Mironov, a St Petersburg Deputy who was strongly supportive of the controversial anti-gay legislation, whose face was combined with a rainbow flag in one of the paintings, spoke to Reuters to say the paintings were inappropriate and “of a distinctly pornographic character”.
The owner of the gallery Alexander Donskoy, said the officers had shut it down with no explanation, and had also not explained the removal of the paintings. He said he had no access to the gallery which had been sealed.
“This is an [illegal] seizure,” he told Reuters. “We have been given no formal documents banning us from operating and no receipt confirming our petty cash was seized.”
He also signed a law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.