A picture of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in women's underwear has been confiscated from an art gallery in St Petersburg ahead of the G20 summit.
Russian officials seized the satirical painting, which shows the Russian President lovingly combing the Prime Minister's hair, on Tuesday, ahead of a meeting of world leaders in the city next week.
They also confiscated paintings poking fun at politicians Vitaly Milonov and Yelena Mizulina, who pioneered Russia’s anti-gay laws, as well as one of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill showing him with prison skull tattoos. The church leader recently declared that equal marriage was a symptom of the apocalypse.
Officials said the pictures “violated existing legislation,” but no more specifics were given and according to reports the gallery's owner, Alexander Donskoy, said he had seen no formal warrant for the removal of the paintings.
Milonov, who is the deputy mayor of St Petersburg, had allegedly complained about the paintings, saying they were “of a distinctly pornographic character.” One of the pieces of artwork featured his face next to a rainbow flag.
Vitaly Milonov is one of the architects of Russia’s newly imposed anti-gay laws and said last month that gay athletes and their supporters at Russia’s 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games could face arrest under the legislation.
During a long, offensive rant against homosexuality on BBC 5 Live earlier in August he likened homosexuality to perversion, bestiality and accused broadcaster Stephen Fry of being “sick” because of his attempt to take his own life by suicide.
The director of St. Petersburg's Museum of Power, Tatiana Titova, told AP on Wednesday that Altunin left for France and was planning to request asylum there.
A police statement did not specify which laws may have been violated by the provocative works. One Russian law prohibits insulting state authorities; while another recently imposed law bans alleged homosexual propaganda aimed at minors.