Russian artist Konstantin Altunin, who made international headlines this week after police seized his painting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women’s underwear, is seeking asylum in France.
The 45-year-old fled Russia on Tuesday night after police raided an art gallery in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg and confiscated various works, including Altunin’s painting depicting Putin in a pink nightie and Medvedev in a bra and knickers.
Altunin fears he would be arrested if he returned to Russia.
"Yesterday I went to the prefecture in Paris ... and made this request (for asylum). I now need to go through the procedure and bring written confirmation of where I am staying," Altunin told the Agence France-Presse.
In a separate interview with Bloomberg, Altunin said: “I don’t want to return to Russia. I want to live and work in an atmosphere of freedom.”
Altunin said he was inspired to create the painting after the 2011 announcement that then-Prime Minister Putin and then-President Medvedev would swap jobs, returning Putin to the Kremlin.
The incident is the latest example of the Russian government cracking down on freedom of speech and opposition movements as it seeks to silence dissenting voices.
In July, Putin signed into law a bill banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" among minors, which critics slammed as homophobic.
And last year three members of the female punk group Pussy Riot were jailed for performing a song critical of Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.