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Russian performance artist sets fire to Federal Security Service building in Moscow

Petr Pavlensky has been taken into custody by police for his latest piece protesting state surveillance

The Russian artist and activist Pyotr Pavlensky has been arrested after setting fire to the main entrance of the Federal Security Service (FSB) building in Lubyanka Square in Moscow Sunday night as part of a performance piece called Threat. The site previously held a KGB prison.

“Burning the door of Lubyanka is a glove that society throws in the face of the terrorist threat. Federal Security Service operates through uninterrupted terror and holds power over 146 million people,” Pavlensky said of the performance in a statement. “Fear turns free people into a sticky mass of disparate bodies. An inevitable reprisal threatens everyone who is within the reach of surveillance, eavesdropping devices, and passport control borders. Military courts eliminate any manifestation of a free will. But terrorism can only exist based on the animal instinct of fear.”

Pavlensky was taken into official custody on the suspicion of disorderly conduct. Two journalists, Vladimir Romensky and Nigina Beroeva, who were documenting the performance, were also detained to serve as witnesses, according to the police.

Pavlensky has been on trial for vandalism in St Petersburg for the 2014 performance Freedom, in which he led a group that built a makeshift barricade on Tripartite Bridge, burned tyres and beat drums, reproducing the “distinctive sound of Maidan”. In 2013, he famously nailed his testicles to the cobblestones of Moscow’s Red Square in the performance Fixation, and in 2012 he sewed his lips shut in support of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot.