New East Digital Archive

Russian performance artist arrested for Ukraine solidarity protest

Russian performance artist arrested for Ukraine solidarity protest
Artist Pyotr Pavlensky drums with sticks as tyres burn during a performance called Freedom. Photograph: Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

24 February 2014

Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky has been arrested for setting fire to a mound of car tyres in St Petersburg in a show of solidarity with the anti-government protesters in Ukraine. The tyres, set alight next to the Christ of the Saviour on Blood church, were intended to echo the barricades set up by protesters around Independence Square, known as Maidan, in Kiev. As part of the performance, entitled Freedom, other activists waved Ukrainian flags and banged on sheets of metal until police and firefighters arrived.

The protests first began in late November when the now ousted President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the EU in favour closer ties with Russia. Three months of anti-government protests culminated in bloody clashes last week with up to 100 dead and many more injured. Yanukovych fled the capital on Saturday, and an interim government has been appointed in his place.

Pavlensky and two others have been detained on charges of petty hooliganism and will face a court hearing today, his lawyer Dinar Idrisov told Ekho Moskvy radio station. Pavlensky made headlines in November after he nailed his scrotum to the paving stones in Moscow’s Red Square, which he said was a protest against political apathy in Russia. In an interview with The Calvert Journal, curator Marat Guelman said: “In my opinion Pyotr Pavlensky’s action is the final argument that can be made in an ongoing dispute with the government — a manifestation of the desperation and total impotence of the artist in this country.”

Pavlensky has become known for his self-mutilating performances. He has previously wrapped himself naked in barbed wire to protest Russia’s repressive legal system and has sewn up his lips to support the then-imprisoned members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot.

Source: RIA Novosti