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Museum head fired after show satirising Sochi Olympics

Regional authorities in Russia on Wednesday fired a prominent art museum director and opposition activist after he organised an exhibition poking fun at Russia’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Marat Guelman, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, wrote on Twitter that he had been fired as head of the Museum of Contemporary Art i the Urals city of Perm.

A spokesman for the governor confirmed to ITAR-TASS news agency that “the contract is torn up as of today.”

Last week Perm authorities banned three exhibitions at the White Nights festival curated by Guelman. One show called “Welcome Sochi-2014!” included a picture of Stalin wearing the costume of an Olympic mascot and an image of the Olympic rings as hanging nooses.

Perm governor Viktor Basargin wrote on his blog that he “categorically disliked the idea of this exhibition.”

Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, a huge matter of national pride even though the preparations have been mired by scandals about massive overspending and environmental damage.

Guelman on Wednesday wrote on Twitter that the region’s culture minister, Igor Gladnev, “just called and confirmed the fact I was fired.”

“A culture minister who closes down exhibitions obviously mixed up his job with the FSB (security services),” he added bitterly.

It was not specified what prompted Guelman’s dismissal. Basargin on Tuesday ordered an audit of the White Nights festival budget.

Guelman has sought to turn Perm into an international cultural hub, drawing inspiration from Spain’s Bilbao.