Russian artist who painted Putin in women’s underwear flees to France for political asylum

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The artist behind a painting of Russian President Vladimir Putin wearing women’s clothes which was seized by police earlier this week, has fled Russia seeking political asylum.

Konstantin Altunin, the artist who painted the image, has fled to Paris to seek political asylum. According to reports, he has already been visited by officials who allegedly accused him of extremism.

Police in the Russian city of St Petersburg this week seized a number of pieces of art, including the satirical portrait of President Vladimir Putin wearing women’s underwear, for violating undetermined laws.

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.

The museum remains closed, but will reopen on 5 September for one day, said Alexander Donskoy, its curator and owner. He intends to show the remainder of Altunin’s exhibition for just one day, before sending the paintings back to the artist.

Altunin reportedly wrote a letter to Putin demanding the return of his paintings, and has voiced his intention to sue the Russian Federation for theft. He has also written to all members of the G20 summit, asking them to raise the issue of censorship during private discussions with the Russian President.

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.

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”.

Orthodox Church

The image depicts the head of the Russian Orthodox Church with prison tattoos across his torso.

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”.


Vitaly Mironov, a strong supporter of the Russian anti-gay law, was featured as part of the exhibition with a rainbow backdrop.

Some reports suggest that the artist is also attempting to raise funds in order to get his wife and child out of Russia. Campaigners have suggested the sale of one of his paintings in the Saatchi collection would enable him the funds required.

Putin on Friday signed a decree banning all rallies or demonstrations in Sochi around the 2014 Winter Olympics, in what has been seen as an attempt at heading off protests against the anti-gay laws.

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.

The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka.