Oddly Enough

Penis protest rises to greet Russian economic forum

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Radical Russian artists painted a giant protest penis on a drawbridge in central St. Petersburg ahead of a meeting that is the Russian answer to the World Economic Forum, police said on Wednesday.

Measuring 65 metres (220 ft) long and 27 metres across, the light-coloured phallus rises and glistens against the imperial-era capital’s elegant skyline when the bridge is drawn up to let ships pass in the twilit northern summer nights.

Politically minded art collective Voina, or War, said they drew the graffiti on Monday to protest the heightened security measures expected at the International Economic Forum, held from June 17 in Saint Petersburg, the hometown of both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Unsanctioned political art or public messages in the form of graffiti and painting are extremely rare in Russia.

“We have painted a giant phallus to show what the FSB and Interior Ministry are doing in terms of security for the forum,” Voina said in a statement. The FSB is Russia’s main internal security agency.

When the bridge is opened, the erect-looking penis stands beside the local headquarters of the FSB, successor to the KGB.

The forum will draw international business leaders and will be attended by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. St. Petersburg is the hometown of both Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer and FSB chief.

The phallus was still visible on Wednesday, when one of the artists was fined by police, a spokesman said.

Voina became a household name in the Russian blogger scene two years ago when they filmed five couples having sex a day before Russia’s last presidential election. The stunt was seen as a wry pun on the handover of power.

Reporting by Denis Pinchuk, writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Casciato