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Russia: Police seize portrait of Putin and Medvedev in lingerie

Gallery owner says exhibition shut down for flouting unspecified laws

Portrait of Russia's president and prime minister in lingerie. Credit: The Museum of Authority

St Petersburg police have raided an art gallery and seized a number of works, including a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin in lingerie twirling the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, also in women’s underwear, according to media reports.

The painting is part of an exhibit entitled The Rulers, featuring the works of Konstantin Altunin at the recently opened Museum of Authority that is supportive of Russia’s gay rights movement, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report says.

Among the seized works is a painting of Russian legislator Vitaly Milonov backed by rainbow colours.

Milonov, who was instrumental in developing St Petersburg’s anti-gay gag law, reportedly accompanied police to the gallery, owner Alexander Donskoi says.

Two other portraits — one of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill sporting tattoos and another of Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina, who was central to the passage of Russia’s federal “gay propaganda” law — were also taken away. The painting featuring Mizulina is called The Erotic Dreams of Deputy Mizulina.

According to the WSJ, the museum had offered free entry if people said they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender at the door.

Pink News reports that police found the exhibition in violation of certain laws but hadn’t specified which ones.

Donskoi calls the seizure illegal, adding that he doesn’t have access to the gallery, which is reportedly sealed.

“Following an initial inspection, police seized four paintings that have been sent off for analysis, on the basis of which a procedural decision will be made,” the WSJ quotes a web statement from the St Petersburg branch of Russia’s Interior Ministry as saying. The Interior Ministry branch also indicated that it had sent officers to the museum Aug 26 after receiving a complaint that the gallery’s contents may be illegal.