ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A giant mural of jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny survived only a matter of hours before the authorities in Russian President Vladimir Putin's hometown, St. Petersburg, painted over it.
In the work, Putin's most vocal critic is shown smiling and making the shape of a heart with his hands with the slogan "A hero of a new time" next to them.
The painting appeared overnight on a wall of a building in St. Petersburg's central Pushkarsky park. The artist of the mural is not known.
By early morning on April 28, police arrived at the scene, followed by a work crew, who quickly painted over the mural with mustard-colored paint.
"The beautiful St. Petersburg graffiti with Navalny was quickly painted over. This is how they transform everything 'alive' and beautiful into faceless and 'dead,'" Navalny lawyer Lyubov Sobol said on Twitter.
"We have Russia for happiness, they have it for despondency and stagnation."
Several people commented on Twitter that the police acted quicker in response to the picture than they do for violent crimes.
The incident comes a day before a court is expected to rule on a motion by prosecutors to label Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and his regional offices as "extremist" organizations.
That proposal has been condemned by international and domestic human rights groups who say that if they're are labeled as "extremist," their employees and those passing on information about the groups could face arrest and lengthy prison terms.
Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he received life-saving treatment for a poisoning attack in Siberia in August 2020.
He blames the poisoning with a Soviet-style chemical nerve agent on Putin and Russia's security services. The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning.
In February, a Moscow court ruled that while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely considered to be politically motivated. He is currently serving 2 1/2-year sentence at a prison in the Vladimir region.
Navalny's incarceration sparked numerous protests across Russia, which were violently dispersed by police.