Moscow: The artist behind mischievous portrayals of Russia's president and prime minister in women's underwear has fled the country, his colleagues have said.
Police seized Konstantin Altunin's painting showing President Vladimir Putin in a negligee combing the hair of President Dmitry Medvedev, in knickers and a bra, from a St Petersburg gallery on Tuesday.
Putin underwear painting taken down
Police in Russia have confiscated a painting showing President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wearing women's underwear.
Tatiana Titova, the director of the Museum of Power, said Mr Altunin had fled to France and intended to seek asylum there.
Alexander Donsky, the museum owner, told Russian news agencies: "Konstantin fled Russia as soon as he heard that charges of extremism were being drawn up against him. He called me from Copenhagen. He said he wants to make art and not sit in prison for it."
Police closed the exhibition and confiscated three other Altunin paintings poking fun at public figures who backed controversial legislation banning so-called homosexual propaganda. One featured Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church, sporting prison tattoos.
Russia's tough anti-extremism legislation is nominally aimed at criminalising incitement to religious or racial hatred, but has drawn repeated criticism from human rights groups who say it is used as a tool to crush freedom of expression.
Inciting religious hatred carries maximum punishments of up to five years in jail. Under Russian law, insulting an official carries fines of up to 40,000 rubles ($1347) and up to one year of community service. Libel is punishable by a fine of up to one million rubles ($33,650).
The Telegraph, London