Russian artist Pavlensky gives prize money to anti-police guerrillas

27th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who is on trial for torching the door of the security service headquarters, said Friday he would give his prize money from a prestigious award to a group of vigilantes serving life sentences.

On Wednesday, the 32-year-old artist was awarded the Vaclav Havel award for creative dissent, previously given to Russia's punk band Pussy Riot and Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.

He could not attend the ceremony in Oslo because he is standing trial for setting fire to the door of the headquarters of the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB.

Pavlensky shares the prize and the 350,000 Norwegian krone ($42,000; 38,000 euros) that come with it -- with two other laureates, Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani and Uzbek photojournalist Umida Akhmedova.

Speaking from a courtroom cage ahead of a hearing on his case, Pavlensky said that his chunk of the money would be given to a group of young anti-police vigilantes, nicknamed the Primorye Partisans.

They were convicted in 2014 of murdering two policemen and four civilians, with some getting life in prison, while others were sentenced to lengthy terms.

"They deserve (the prize). Vaclav Havel fought for justice and the Primorye Partisans also fought for justice," said Pavlensky.

He called their actions the "struggle against the silence that has consumed our society."

Apparently motivated by a grudge against the force, the group carried out attacks against police in the Far East in 2010.

The media at the time compared the men to Robin Hood, the legendary English mediaeval outlaw said to have robbed the rich.

Widespread public support for the group underlined what critics say is near-daily abuse of office by the police force, whose officers are regularly accused of violent crime and bribe-taking.

The artist, who is famous for a string of shocking self-mutilation stunts, sees his trial as a farce and has refused to speak to the court in protest.

In November, he poured petrol on a door of the looming FSB headquarters on Moscow's Lubyanka square in a performance called Threat, which he said protested against the security service's total control and rule of terror.

In previous radical performances to protest against the authorities, he has sewn his lips together and cut off part of his ear.

© 2016 AFP

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