Russian Thugs Block Photo Exhibit

MOSCOW.- Pro-Kremlin activists yesterday threw urine on pictures by a controversial U.S. photographer at a Moscow gallery and forced the show's closure after a government advisor condemned the images as "child pornography".

The exhibition showed pictures by Jock Sturges, a well-known photographer whose nude images of children have regularly prompted accusations of paedophilia, which he denies.

The exhibition at the established Lumiere Brothers Gallery close to the Kremlin is the first to show Sturges' work in Russia and is titled "Jock Sturges: Absence of Shame."

Russia's children's ombudswoman Anna Kuznetsova launched a public campaign against the exhibition on Saturday, writing on Facebook that it was "child pornography."

Influential conservative senator Yelena Mizulina also released a statement calling the exhibition, which opened September 7, "a public demonstration of child pornography materials" and said it "must be closed urgently."

On Sunday, some 20 activists in matching uniform jackets and camouflage from a little-known non-governmental organization called "Officers of Russia" stood outside the doors of the gallery, as police watched.

The organization's leader Anton Tsvetkov heads the security committee of Russia's Public Chamber, an advisory body made up of public figures. He viewed the exhibition, before announcing its closure.

"The organizers accommodated the Public Chamber and the exhibition is closed from today," he said to shouts of "shame!" from supporters of the show.

Gallery owner Eduard Litvinsky told journalists: "We took a joint decision to close the exhibition. There was a public reaction and we can't do anything about this."

Curator Natalia Litvinskaya told journalists the show "has nothing to do with paedophilia" but said she wanted to close it after receiving "threats from absolutely delusional people."

A man in a leather jacket who gave his name as Alexander poured a bottle filled with urine on the photographs as journalists watched.

He was then handed over to police, RIA Novosti state news agency reported, although a police spokesman would not immediately confirm the man's detention.

The summary closure of the exhibition under pressure from conservative activists and without any legal procedures sparked wide debate online, with hashtags related to the exhibition trending on Twitter.

"A non-governmental organization supported by private security guards sets the rules in Moscow with complete lack of police intervention," radio presenter Alexander Plyushchev wrote on Twitter from the scene. "Hello, don't we have authorities in our country?"