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article image‘Pants to Putin’ artist confirms France asylum request

By Mathew Wace Peck     Aug 29, 2013 in Politics
Konstantin Altunin, the Russian artist responsible for painting the Russian president and his prime minister in women's underwear, is seeking asylum in France.
Yesterday, Digital Journal reported that the painting, by Konstantin Altunin, was confiscated by police from an art gallery in St Petersburg.
The painting shows former Prime-Minister-now-President Vladimir Putin dressed in a negligee and combing the hair of former-President-now-Prime-Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is dressed in a bra and panties.
Altunin is understood to currently be in Paris, where he is seeking permission to stay.
According to the Hurriyet Daily News, the 45-year-old painter said in a phone call, "I went to the prefecture in Paris . . . and made this request. I now need to go through the procedure and bring written confirmation of where I am staying,"
Altunin went on to explain that he fled his homeland as soon as he heard that the authorities had shut down the exhibition and confiscated his work.
"[The police] have already said directly that my exhibition is extremist – that's a very serious charge," he said. "They just said, 'We don't like it,' and sealed up the doors and that was it. I don't think there is such backwardness in any other country."
Pants to Putin
Many have assumed that the painting was being used as a statement against Putin's insidious law attacking the rights of Russia's gay citizens; not least because the Mayor of St Petersburg, Vitaly Milonov – who referred to the painting as pornographic – is one of the architects of Russia’s new anti-gay law.
However, Altunin said that he created the painting in 2011, after Putin and Medvedev announced the job-swap deal* between the two men, which saw Putin return to the Kremlin as president and Medvedev once again becoming prime minister.
Either way, Milonov's insidious proclamations on homosexuality are well known. Writing yesterday on Digital Journal, Amanda Byas referred to the mayor's inaccurate "long, offensive spiel against homosexuality on BBC 5 earlier this month [where] Milonov compared homosexuality to perversion and bestiality".
Last week, Belgian designer Kristof Buntinx launched a range of "gay-friendly" boxer shorts as part of the worldwide protest against Russia's anti-gay laws, while Beware of Images released a pink-triangle Nazi-concentration-camp-like image. The American screenwriter and Prison Break actor, Wentworth Miller, meanwhile, turned down an invitation to the St Petersburg International Film Festival.
Muzykal'nyye stul'ya
* From 1975 to 1991, Putin was a member of the KGB – the former Soviet Union's Committee for State Security (Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti). On 9 August 1999, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin as, first, one of three first deputy prime ministers, then, later that same day, as acting Prime Minister.
Less than five month’s later – on 31 December 1999 – Yeltsin resigned suddenly and Putin became acting President. Putin’s first term as President proper was then confirmed with his inauguration on 7 May 2000. His second presidential term began in 2004.
In 2008, Putin stepped down as President, Russia’s constitution not allowing one person to stand for more than two consecutive terms (although there is no limit to the total number of terms). At this point, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev became president, while Putin returned to his old job as prime minister. Move forward another four years, to March 2012, and Putin and Medvedev play musical chairs (or, as he might call it, Muzykal'nyye stul'ya) once again: Putin returned to the Kremlin as President and Medvedev as Prime Minister.
More about Vladimir putin, Dmitry medvedev, Konstantin Altunin, Vitaly Milonov, Gay
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