Photojournalism show in Moscow attacked by right-wing protesters

Two back-to-back incidents at Sakharov Center centred on pictures of Ukrainian soldiers

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Another photography exhibition in Moscow was raided by protesters dressed as Cossacks, others in camouflage and a municipal legislator—the third such attack in the Russian capital this week. The back-to-back attacks centred on images of Ukrainian soldiers who fought against pro-Russian rebels that are part of a photojournalism show at the Sakharov Center.

On Wednesday, an artist named Anton Belikov splashed paint on pictures of Ukrainian soldiers by the photojournalists Sergei Loiko and Alexander Vasyukevich, and called the latter a “fascist”. They are among the winners of Direct Look, a competition sponsored by the Sakharov Center and the Fotodoc Center for Documentary Photography.

The photos damaged on Wednesday had been replaced with signs saying they would not be restored, since “a public conversation about the war in Ukraine as a tragedy is, unfortunately, impossible in our city,” Sergey Lukashevsky, the director of the Sakharov Center, told the independent Dozhd television channel.

Then on Thursday, more protesters tore down the signs and carried a red liquid they labelled “the blood of children killed in Donbass [a region in eastern Ukraine],” Lukashevsky said. In a Facebook post, the center wrote that the attackers shouted: “Rub out those jackasses and save Russia.”

The rest of the exhibition will continue, but Lukashevsky added that he would not expose its employees or visitors “to danger and various kinds of attacks”. The centre is named after Andrei Sakharov, a physicist who stood up to the Soviet regime and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Last Sunday, protesters prompted the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography to shut down an exhibition of works by the American photographer Jock Sturges.

Alexander Zhuravsky, a deputy culture minister of Russia, told the conservative Tsargrad television channel that “we are in principle against all kinds of pogroms”, but that it is necessary to take public opinion into account “and understand what risks are involved in holding one or another kind of exhibition”.

The broadcaster also warned viewers that the Sakharov Center exhibition could give rise to “a series of photo essays from the Middle East depicting smiling and freedom-loving soldiers of the ‘Islamic State’ and other terrorist groups that are banned in Russia, unlike the Ukrainian punitive battalions”. The television channel was founded by the Russian multimillionaire Konstantin Malofeev, who has been accused by the European Commission and the US of funding separatist groups in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

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