A Moscow court, yesterday released the performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky who has spent seven months in jail for burning the front entrance to the Moscow headquarters of the FSB security services, the dreaded successor to the feared Soviet-era KGB.
The court instead handed out a hefty fine, in a rare show of leniency by the authorities. The judge ordered the artist to pay 500,000 rubles ($7,800, 6,800 euros) after finding him guilty. He stated that the punishment was reduced due to the months Pavlensky had already served in prison. The artist was also ordered to pay 481,000 rubles to replace the damaged door. Pavlensky faced up to a three year jail term on charges of damaging a cultural site.
The performance artist who is a friend of feminist band Pussy Riot, previously garnered world attention for nailing his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square. He has previously sewn his lips together, wrapped himself in barbed wire and chopped off part of his ear.
“Thanks to all for the support, thanks to those who were not afraid,” Pavlensky stated to journalists in the courtroom, addressing them from the defendants’ cage. “I can’t pay the fine,” he said, adding that he would not pay up “on principle”.
Pavlensky, 32 is best known for performances that criticise Russia’s freedom of speech and artistic censorship. said he started the fire at the FSB to highlight its “method of continuous terror” to control Russian society.
Last year, Pavlensky was awarded the Vaclav Havel award for creative dissent, previously given to Russian punk band Pussy Riot and Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.