Putin Underwear Artist Flees Russia to France for Asylum

Konstantin Altunin
A visitor observing an artwork representing Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev by Russian artist Konstantin Altunin. Photographer: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- An artist whose paintings feature President Vladimir Putin in women’s underwear fled to France after authorities in St. Petersburg shut his exhibition and confiscated four of his works, the exhibition’s curator said.

Konstantin Altunin flew to Paris yesterday and plans to seek political asylum, Tatiana Titova, the director of the Museum of Power, said by phone from Putin’s hometown. The seized works also included satirical portrayals of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women’s underwear. Police will study the paintings to determine if they violate any laws, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on its website.

“We are powerless facing the despotism of authorities,” said Titova, who declined to provide Altunin’s mobile number. “The museum was closed for no reason.”

Putin signed a law in July banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors, which drew criticism from gay-rights activists worldwide, including the singer Madonna. Three members of the all-female punk group Pussy Riot were convicted of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred last year for lip-syncing a song critical of Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral. Two of the women remain in jail.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anatoly Temkin in St. Petersburg at atemkin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net