Russian guard who scribbled eyes on million-dollar painting sentenced as museum scrutiny intensifies

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A magistrate’s court in Yekaterinburg, Russia, today (August 29) ruled that a security guard at the city’s Yeltsin center who scribbled his eyes on a 1930s painting by the artist of avant-garde Anna Leporskaya last December was guilty of vandalism and had to serve 180 hours of “compulsory labor” and undergo a “psychiatric evaluation”.

The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, which had lent the painting, worth an estimated 75 million rubles ($1.2 million), to the Yeltsin Center, refused to request that the charges against the guard, Aleksandr Vasiliev, 64, despite his tormented life. as a veteran of the Afghan and Chechen wars, the death of his wife and the murder of his son.

Leporskaya was a student of Kazimir Malevich.

In a letter earlier this month to Vasiliev’s lawyer, Aleskei Bushmakov, which he posted on his Facebook page on August 15, Zelfira Tregulova, general director of the Tretyakov Gallery, wrote that “given the circumstances of the criminal case, the damage inflicted on the Painting three digitsand “the high level of public attention in connection with the incident”, the museum considered closing the case “by way of reconciliation” but ultimately decided that it “did not consider it possible to introduce such an appeal before the magistrate”.

In a hearing on August 19, Bushmakov said that Vasiliev had asked Tretyakov, the Yeltsin Center and the state for forgiveness, It’s my city, a publication from Yekaterinburg, reported. The 250,000 ruble ($4,100) cost of restoring the painting was covered by insurance.

” And now ? Run it? Organizing a public flogging? Bushmakov asked according to the publication.

Like most things in Russia today, the case took on political overtones. The Yeltsin Center has been attacked for years by Russian nationalist director Nikita Mikhalkov, who has said the center is a bastion of anti-Russian and pro-Western liberalism and should be shut down. The American-style presidential center and affiliated art museum where Leporskaya’s painting was exhibited was founded in 2015 to commemorate Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet president, who launched his political career in Yekaterinburg. He died in 2007 after choosing Vladimir Putin as his successor.

In June, Mikhalkov said on his popular youtube channel that the Yeltsin Center be declared a “foreign agent”, a repressive label often used by the Russian Ministry of Justice to restrict freedom of expression.

The center is now under closer scrutiny after the arrest last week in Yekaterinburg of Yevgeny Roizman, a popular opposition politician who was previously the city’s mayor and founded Russia’s first private icon museum there in 1999. He was arrested for denouncing Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. A judge freed Roizman to await his home probation period, with some restrictions on communications and movement, a radically liberal decision in today’s Russia that appears to reflect Kremlin concerns over Yekaterinburg in as a potential center of protest.

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