Russia artist charged with damaging 'cultural site' for FSB door fire

29th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Russian investigators have altered the charge against a performance artist for torching the door of the FSB security service's headquarters from vandalism to "damaging a cultural heritage site," his lawyer said Tuesday.

Pyotr Pavlensky will still face up to three years in jail under the new charge, lawyer Dmitry Dinze told AFP. "The maximum sentence does not change."

The 32-year-old artist was detained in November after setting fire to the wooden door of the FSB's Moscow headquarters -- the infamous Lubyanka building that used to house the Soviet-era KGB -- in a performance called "Threat" to protest against state "terrorism" by the security services.

He was initially charged with "ideologically-motivated" vandalism, which also carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.

Pavlensky's previous radical performances have included nailing his scrotum to the cobbles of Red Square, sewing his lips together and wrapping himself in barbed wire.

Dinze said he only heard of the new charge a day before a Tuesday hearing at Moscow City Court, at which a judge rejected Pavlensky's latest appeal against detention.

Pavlensky who spoke in court via videolink from prison confirmed his charge had been changed, Dinze said.

The new charge against him covers damage or destruction of listed buildings and areas of natural beauty.

The FSB headquarters is housed in a building which pre-dates the 1917 revolution, and which dominates the central Lubyanka square.

Last year, the judge said the cost of replacing the door was an estimated at 55,000 rubles ($800/715 euros).

Pavlensky himself has repeatedly asked his case to be reclassified as terrorism, citing the case of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who was convicted last year on terror charges over arson attacks on pro-Kremlin party offices in Crimea.

Pavlensky is being held in Moscow's ageing Butyrka prison after spending a month in the Serbsky psychiatric hospital to verify his mental state.

Last week, he was transferred to solitary confinement for 10 days, accused of breaking light bulbs, the opposition Open Russia website reported.

Pavlensky's partner Oksana Shalygina wrote on Facebook last week that investigators "have started hauling in for questioning and searching the homes of people that Pyotr Pavlensky and I know".

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© 2016 AFP

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