Russian Police Seize ‘Putin in Drag’ Painting, Artist Seeks Asylum in France

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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A 45-year-old Russian artist is seeking political asylum in France after Russian police raided his exhibition and confiscated a painting he made of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in ladies underwear.

Konstantin Altunin’s painting shows Putin wearing a negligee with Medvedev beside him wearing a bra and panties. Putin appears to be doing Medvedev’s hair.

Authorities took this and three other painting belonging to Altunin. The raid took place Tuesday in Saint Petersburg, host of next week’s G20 summit, at the newly opened Museum of the Authorities.

Altunin fled Russia when he learned the exhibition was shut down. Police detained the organizers of the events Tuesday and reportedly questioned them all night.

Now in Paris, Altunin told the press that he requested political asylum and is in the process of gathering the necessary documents, according to Raw Story.

“Yesterday I went to the prefecture in Paris … and made this request," Altunin said. "I now need to go through the procedure and bring written confirmation of where I am staying.”

He believed authorities would have found his work humorous and was surprised at their reaction.

“They just said ‘We don’t like it’ and sealed up the doors and that was it," he said. "I don’t think there is such backwardness in any other country."

He said Russian authorities characterized his work as “extremist” and he feared criminal charges would be brought against him.

“They have already said directly that my exhibition is extremist — that’s a very serious charge,” he said.

“He is not charged with anything, but if the authorities confiscated the paintings, they could do anything,” said Alexander Donskoi, director of the Museum of the Authorities.

Organizers of the exhibition commissioned the painting, which was done in 2011, when Putin and Medvedev announced they would be swapping places, again, as president and prime minister.

“It is absolutely innocent irony,” Altunin said.

“This is an [illegal] seizure,” Donskoi said. “We have been given no formal documents banning us from operating and no receipt confirming our petty cash was seized.”

Russian authorities are having the paintings examined.

“We received information from a citizen that the images in the museum broke the law," said police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko. "Police confiscated four paintings and currently experts are examining them." 

Some of the artwork made explicit references to Russia’s new anti-gay ban on "homosexual propaganda." Altunin reportedly made another painting of Putin with a rainbow flag.

Sources: Raw Story, Vanity Fair