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Latvia Dismantles 'Crucified Putin' Statue

  • RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

The author has reportedly preferred to remain anonymous, although media quote him or her as saying it was based on an acquaintance who is an Italian businessman.

The author has reportedly preferred to remain anonymous, although media quote him or her as saying it was based on an acquaintance who is an Italian businessman.

Authorities in the Latvian capital, Riga, have dismantled an artwork that the Russian Embassy there says depicts Russian President Vladimir Putin being crucified.

The wooden statue was removed after the Russian Embassy protested its presence as part of a 10-piece, open-air display near the Soviet-era headquarters in Latvia of the KGB.

Putin is a former KGB officer whose pledges to defend Russians abroad -- combined with Russia's armed intervention and continuing support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine -- have alarmed former Soviet neighbors like Latvia.

The artwork depicts a man in a suit suspended on a red cross, wearing a crown of barbed wire and with nails driven into his head, wrists, and feet.

Passersby are allowed to drive nails into the figure -- or to remove them.

A Latvian Foreign Ministry official was quoted by Baltkom Radio as saying the artwork does not actually depict Putin or any other real person, and should be judged only by art critics and professionals.

The author has reportedly preferred to remain anonymous, although media quote him or her as saying it was based on an acquaintance who is an Italian businessman.

But the Russian Embassy expressed "extreme indignation and disgust" after it appeared.

"We consider unacceptable the appearance of this kind of provocation 'arts' in the capital of the country currently taking over the presidency of the EU Council," the embassy said in a note to the Latvian Foreign Ministry on May 15.

The broader exhibition, Dissident, is part of an annual event dedicated to Riga's 20th-century history and opened on May 1.

The organizers say two other artists taking part in the exhibition have been threatened, and that one artwork has been partially damaged.

Some visitors say the exhibition has been closed since May 16.

The pro-Russian GVD-Baltiya movement nevertheless has announced a plan to stage a protest rally against the exhibit on May 21.

Around 26 percent of the population in Latvia, a post-Soviet Baltic republic of around 2 million people, is ethnic Russian.

Moscow claims that Latvian authorities discriminate against their Russian-speaking community.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service correspondent Maria Kugel
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