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Some Charges Against Russian Art Group Members Lifted

Russian Oleg Vorotnikov from the Voina street-art group with his wife in Saint Petersburg
Russian Oleg Vorotnikov from the Voina street-art group with his wife in Saint Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A prominent member of a Russian anarchist street-art collective who faced jail for overturning a police car has had the charges against him lifted, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

A police investigative committee in St. Petersburg announced on October 13 that it is dropping the charges against Oleg Vorotnikov, a member of the group Voina (War).

Vorotnikov and his colleague, Leonid Nikolayev, were charged in November 2010 with "expressing hatred and animosity towards a social group -- the police" after they overturned a police car in Moscow in what they called "an artistic representation of a palace coup."

Earlier this week, St. Petersburg law enforcement officials also announced that the charges against Nikolayev have been dropped, as the police cannot be defined as a social group.

Nikolayev's lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, told RFE/RL that Nikolayev will very probably sue police for illegally opening a criminal case against him. Dinze said Nikolayev's mother can claim back the bail she paid to secure his release.

Dinze said Vorotnikov, who has been in hiding since April, still faces separate charges of using violence against and verbally insulting police officers. Those charges are related to Vorotnikov's arrest at an opposition demonstration in March.

"I do not think he risks being sent to jail if found guilty of the charges that still are pending, but I fully believe his lawyers will have to act fast if they want to reach a deal with the investigators," Dinze said.

Meanwhile, Vorotnikov's lawyer, Igor Ryabchikov, told RFE/RL his strategy will be to try to prove that his client is not guilty of any misdeeds he is charged with.

Vorotnikov's current whereabouts are not known.

Read more in Russian here