Russian artist allegedly fleeing to Denmark

Paintings depicting President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev as women in lingerie did not sit well with the Russian authorities

The Russian artist Konstantin Altunin is reportedly on his way to Denmark after fleeing Russia to avoid being punished in connection with his paintings that ridicule President Vladimir Putin and the prime minister, Dimity Medvedev.

According to the owner of the gallery that displays Altunin's paintings, the artist decided to leave his native St Petersburg after getting wind that the Russian police were looking to arrest him.

"After hearing that police were waiting at his home, Konstantin bought a ticket for Denmark and and as of Wednesday he is in France," the gallery owner, Alexander Donskoi, told AFP news service.

Putin and Medvedev in skirts
Russian police confiscated four of Altunin's paintings, including one that depicts Putin and Medvedev as women in lingerie with visible cleavage.

"We are accused of extremism. Police recommended us not to make a noise about this incident ahead of the G20, but it is scandalous, art has nothing to do with politics," Donskoi told AFP.

Donskoi also said that the police had shut down his gallery with no explanation and seized cash in addition to taking the paintings.

In addition to the painting depicting Putin in lingerie playing with Medvedev’s hair, another painting shows Putin with a halo and a third shows Vitaly Milonov, St Petersburg’s legislative assembly deputy and a key supporter of Russia’s recently-passed anti-gay laws, standing in front of the rainbow-coloured Gay Pride flag.

"We received information from a citizen that the images in the museum broke the law," Vyacheslav Stepchenko, a St Petersburg police spokesperson, told AFP. "Police confiscated four paintings and currently experts are examining them."


Anti-gay, anti-state laws
Aside from the recently-passed controversial anti-gay laws, there are also laws in Russia that prohibit insulting state authorities. The police did not specify which of the controversial laws that Altunin’s work had violated.

The Guardian newspaper reported that Altunin was on his way to France, where he has held exhibits before, perhaps stopping there before continuing on to Copenhagen.

St Petersburg, which is due to host world leaders at the G20 summit next week, was one of the first Russian cities to introduce anti-gay laws.

The painting of Putin and Medvedev in women's underwear can be viewed here