SAINT PETERSBURG: Russian police detained four people in the centre of Saint Petersburg Sunday for staging an artistic show of solidarity with anti-government protesters in Ukraine, an official said.
A group of activists, including artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who is known for staging physically distressing performances and in November nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones on Red Square in Moscow, piled up burning tyres in a mini-barricade and set them ablaze on one of the historic capital's iconic bridges.
Participants meanwhile waved Ukrainian flags next to the Church of the Saviour on Blood and banged on sheets of metal, prompting the quick arrival of police and firefighters.
"Four people were detained this morning for the hooligan action near Saviour on Blood," city police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko told AFP.
Activists said their performance, which they entitled "Freedom", was meant to be an echo of the Maidan, or Independence Square in the Ukrainian capital, where three months of anti-government protests exploded this week into clashes that killed nearly 100 people before president Viktor Yanukovych abandoned the capital Saturday.
Unlike in Ukraine, the Saint Petersburg performance lasted only 20 minutes before the activists were taken away and the tyres extinguished by firehoses.
In a statement published in local papers, the activists said their performance was the "song of freedom and revolution" and was meant to show that the Ukrainian movement "is spreading and infiltrating the heart of the Empire", apparently referring to Russia.
Pavlensky is a Saint Petersburg-based artist best known for his performance "Fixation" on Red Square, in which he undressed right beneath the Kremlin walls and nailed his scrotum to the ground to protest against oppression by President Vladimir Putin's regime.
Pavlensky is now being charged with petty hooliganism, lawyer Pavel Chikov wrote on Facebook.