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Pyotr Pavlensky Convicted of Vandalism in Moscow for Pro-Ukraine Protest

Pavlensky. DMITRY TSYRENSHIKOV

Pyotr Pavlensky.

DMITRY TSYRENSHIKOV

The Associated Press reports that dissident Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky was convicted today in Moscow of vandalism during a pro-Ukraine protest. Though he was sentenced to 16 months in prison, he will not spend any time in jail because the statute of limitations has expired. He will, however, remain in custody until a second case, regarding the burning of cultural objects, is decided.

The verdict comes just one day after Russian prison guards cracked Pavlensky’s ribs as they escorted him back to his jail cell. Earlier this year, he was also transferred from a prison to a psychiatric hospital for examination.

Pavlensky was convicted for a 2014 performance called Freedom, for which the artist and several colleagues reenacted pro-Ukraine protests by creating a barricade on Saint Petersburg’s Tripartite Bridge, burning tires, and shouting. The performance was stopped by Russian authorities, and Pavlensky was imprisoned for two days.

A second, pending case concerns a 2015 performance called Lubyanka’s Burning Door. This work involved Pavlensky setting fire to the door of the Lubyanka Building in Moscow, where the KGB has its offices. Only 30 seconds passed before Pavlensky was arrested.

The trial has been a historic one for Russia, a country where politicized art often gets censored by authorities. Pavlensky has protested censorship himself in the past—in 2013, he sewed his mouth shut after Pussy Riot’s members were imprisoned.

He has also wrapped himself in barbed wire in front of Saint Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly and nailed his scrotum to the pavement in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum. Both acts were intended to show how the Russian government was limiting citizens’ rights. “All these laws aren’t aimed against criminals, but against the people,” Pavlensky has said.

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