Russia drops charges on radical artists for police car stunt
Russian investigators have dropped charges against two prize-winning street artists after they overturned police cars in Saint Petersburg, the group said Thursday.
Last September, artists Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev from the controversial group Voina, or War, flipped over three parked police cars in the northwestern city in a late-night performance they called the Palace Coup.
The investigative committee said in a statement scanned to Voina's website on Thursday that it found no "elements of a crime in the actions of Vorotnikov and Nikolayev."
The legal definition of hooliganism implies hatred for a particular social group, while police do not constitute such a social group, the investigators ruled. The men had faced up to five years in jail if convicted.
The group, which specialises in outrageous public stunts, won international renown for painting a giant erect penis on a drawbridge in June 2010 in a performance rewarded with a prestigious Russian art prize.
The giant, 65-metre-high phallus rose into the air opposite the headquarters of the city's FSB security service and was captured in spectacular photographs before it was hurriedly scrubbed off.
In April, the work, titled "A Cock Captured by the FSB", won Russia's Innovation-2011 contemporary art prize, founded by the culture ministry, which expressed its "disgust" at the work but did not intervene in the result.
Vorotnikov still awaits trial on a separate charge of attacking and insulting police at an unsanctioned rally in March, when investigators say he pulled off policemen's hats, hit one twice on the head and jumped on a police car bonnet.
Vorotnikov, 32, and Nikolayev, 27, were arrested last year for the car tipping and spent three months in detention until the reclusive British street artist Banksy paid their bail of 300,000 rubles (then $10,800, 7,500 euros).
© 2011 AFP