Sat, Oct 15, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Charges dropped over artists’ police car prank in Russia

AFP, SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

Russian investigators have dropped charges against two prize-winning street artists after they overturned police cars in Saint Petersburg, the group said on Thursday.

In September last year, artists Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolayev from the controversial group Voina (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 Web site 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 specializes in outrageous public stunts, won international renown for painting a giant erect penis on a drawbridge in June last year in a performance rewarded with a prestigious Russian art prize.

The giant, 65m high phallus rose into the air opposite the headquarters of the city’s Federal Security Service (FSB) 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 Russian Ministry of Culture, 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.

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 roubles (then US$10,800).

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