Radical Russian art group ‘sets police van on fire’

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A radical Russian art group known for provocative stunts said Monday it had set a police van alight to create an "eternal flame" remembering the arrests of opposition figures.

Voina (War) said it had managed to set alight the police van – the same type used to detain protestors after opposition rallies – in Saint Petersburg half an hour before the onset of the New Year on December 31.

Footage posted on the Internet showed one of Voina’s members, calmly and unhindered, walking up to the police van and setting up fires around its tires which then sent flames and smoke into the night sky.

Saint Petersburg police confirmed one of their vans had been set on fire at this time, adding that the vehicle suffered damage to its interior but that there were no casualties.

"The cause of the burning is being investigated," a spokesperson told AFP, without specifying who was suspected of being behind the action.

Voina described the action as an "auto-da-fe for the cops" – in reference to the phrase for burning of heretics by the Spanish inquisition, which translates to "act of faith" – and "chapter three of Voina’s training manual – ‘what to do if your friend is in jail’."

"Such a fire must burn in honor of every political prisoner," it said in a message on the Live Journal blog of its leader Alexei Plutser-Sarno (plucer.livejournal.com), describing the blaze as an "eternal flame."

The Ural police vans – known as avtozaki in Russian – are present in force during opposition protests in Russia against the domination of Vladimir Putin’s rule and arrested protestors are roughly bundled inside them.

Voina has already won fame with stunts that included painting an erect penis on a lifting bridge opposite the Saint Petersburg headquarters of the security service and tipping over a police car with sleeping officers inside.

The phallus installation this year won Russia’s annual Innovation art prize. The Russian culture ministry, which founded the award, described the decision as "disgusting" but also refused to intervene.



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