Police have seized t-shirts with controversial pictures of Pussy Riot punk band members from an artist in the West Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the Interior Ministry’s regional department reported on Wednesday.
Police officers bought the t-shirts in a test purchase operation from artist Artyom Loskutov as he was selling them on the streets of his native city at 800 rubles ($25.5) per item.
Loskutov is accused of exercising business activities without a license.
A local court upheld in August a fine slapped on Loskutov for painting fake “icons” in support of Pussy Riot, which he plastered over Novosibirsk. The court ruled that Loskutov, known for his tongue-in-cheek art performances, will have to pay 1,000 rubles ($32) for offending religious sentiments with his stunt.
In March Loskutov hijacked three street billboards, putting up his own posters of Virgin Mary based on a famous Orthodox Christian icon. The posters showed the Mother of God wearing a colored balaclava and had a stylized inscription in support of the punk group.
The Interior Ministry also said the t-shirts seized from Loskutov this time had the same type of pictures on them as ones the artist had been fined for.
Loskutov told RIA Novosti that police officers from the economic crimes department seized two t-shirts and 1,600 rubles ($51) from him, but denied that he was selling them saying these were “donations” for the punk band in exchange for t-shirts.
An edited clip of Pussy Riot’s protest in late February posted online showed the group alternately high-kicking near the entrance to the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, accompanying the “Holy S**t” song urging the Virgin Mary to “drive [Vladimir] Putin out.” The song contained words insulting to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and to believers.
Three band members were found guilty of hooliganism and jailed for two years each on August 17. This attracted both media attention and international criticism, which Moscow dismissed as "groundless" saying the band's act was not an issue of artistic performance but was "insulting to millions of Orthodox [Christian] believers."