SAINT-PETERSBURG – Russian police said Wednesday they had raided an exhibition and confiscated a painting that portrayed President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev lounging together in women's lingerie.
Police said they confiscated four paintings by artist Konstantin Altunin and closed down the exhibition of his work in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, which is set to host world leaders for the G20 summit next month.
One of the paintings confiscated shows Putin playing with Medvedev's hair. He is wearing a strappy nightie, while Medvedev has cleavage bursting out of a bra and is wearing skimpy knickers.
"We received information from a citizen that the images in the museum broke the law. Police confiscated four paintings and currently experts are examining them," said police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko.
The exhibition made explicit references to a controversial law recently passed by Putin banning promotion of homosexuality among minors, although police did not specify the legal grounds for its closure.
The law, which critics says can be used to shut down any gay rights event, has prompted a chorus of international protest and British actor Stephen Fry this month called for Russia to be deprived of the right to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year.
The exhibition's organiser Alexander Donskoi told AFP that the police had accused the small privately-owned Museum of Power of extremism, a criminal offence that carries more serious charges.
"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 said.
One of the other paintings that was confiscated showed one of the anti-gay law's most outspoken backers, Saint Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, in front of the rainbow symbol of the international Gay Pride movement.
Milonov accompanied the police who raided the exhibition, Donskoi said.
"After visiting the exhibition a few days ago, Milonov came yesterday evening with the police. He is behind the ban on the exhibition," he said.
The exhibition, which was titled "Leaders", also included images of Soviet leaders Stalin and Lenin, as well as a painting showing Putin with a halo.