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Video Shows Russian Artist Setting Fire to FSB Intelligence Headquarters in Moscow

Pyotr Pavlensky said his action was called "Threat" and meant to draw attention to what he called the terror tactics employed by the security agency.

by Reuters and VICE News
Nov 9 2015, 3:55pm

Photo via Varlamov.ru

A Russian performance artist was arrested in Moscow early on Monday after he set fire to the entrance of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) security service, the successor to the Soviet KGB.

Video footage showed Pyotr Pavlensky standing on Moscow's Lubyanka Square in front of the building where political prisoners were interrogated and killed in the Soviet era, as flames licked around its entrance, scorching parts of two heavy wooden doors.

In a statement accompanying the video of the incident, Pavlensky said his action was called "Threat" and meant to draw attention to what he called the terror tactics employed by the security agency. 

Pavlensky said he was protesting the FSB's use of "continuous terror" that "holds power over 146 million people."

Pavlensky's lawyer later told the Interfax news agency that Pavlensky was being held in a Moscow police station and might be charged with arson. Unnamed law enforcement sources confirmed Pavlensky's detention, saying he could be charged with petty hooliganism, an offence that usually carries a fine and a jail term of up to 15 days. 

Pavlensky is one of Russia's most prominent political artists and his extreme work protesting Vladimir Putin's government has attracted attention in the past. In 2012, he sewed his lips together to protest against the jailing of anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot, and the following year he wrapped himself in barbed wire in front of a government building to show his opposition to laws he deemed regressive.

In his most shocking act, in 2013, Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to Moscow's Red Square, which he described as a metaphor for the political apathy of Russian society. Last year, Pavlensky was arrested after slicing off his earlobe while sitting naked on the roof of an infamous state psychiatry clinic to protest against what he said was the political abuse of psychiatry.

Public reaction to his latest act was mixed with some Russians taking to social media to laud his bravery and others strongly condemning him.

Pavlensky has been ordered to undergo psychiatric tests in the past but doctors determined him to be sane.

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