© Reuters. Artist Vladimir Ovchinnikov walks close to a constructing along with his paintings depicting distinguished folks, who made contributions to area exploration, within the city of Borovsk within the Kaluga area, Russia, December 7, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
BOROVSK, Russia (Reuters) – Over 20 years, Russian pensioner Vladimir Ovchinnikov gained a following for his avenue murals within the small city of Borovsk, some 70 miles (115 km) southwest of Moscow, a lot of which depicted the plight of victims of Stalinist-era repressions.
However on March 25, simply over a month after Russia despatched tens of 1000’s of troops into Ukraine, Ovchinnikov created a brand new work, one that will place him in critical authorized jeopardy.
He painted a woman, in a blue and yellow costume, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, with a bomb falling onto her from above. Beneath her, in block capitals, he wrote: “STOP”.
The mural fell afoul of recent legal guidelines handed by the Russian authorities successfully criminalising opposition to the navy marketing campaign in Ukraine.
“The police mentioned that this piece discredited our military”, Ovchinnikov, 85, instructed Reuters.
The mural was painted over and Ovchinnikov ordered to pay a 35,000 rouble ($554) high quality for the brand new offence of “discrediting the Russian military”, which carries a most penalty of 5 years in jail.
In response, he painted a brand new piece, on the identical spot, writing the phrase “bezumiye” (“craziness” in Russian), spelt with a Latin letter Z, which has change into an emblem of what Moscow calls its particular navy operation in Ukraine. The police promptly painted over it.
It triggered a sport of cat-and-mouse between Ovchinnikov and police in Borovsk, a city of 12,000 folks
Instead of the painted-over mural, he drew the phrases “pozor” (disgrace), “fiasco”, and “basta” (sufficient), every with a Latin Z. Every in flip was painted over by the police.
The Borovsk native administration didn’t reply to a request for remark.
For Ovchinnikov, opposition to the battle in Ukraine is underpinned by a household historical past of Soviet-era repression. His grandfather was shot by Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1919 and his father was arrested throughout Stalin’s purges in 1937.
He has drawn consideration to Russia’s historical past of political repression as a motif in his artwork. In 2017, he persuaded native authorities to erect a monument to its victims – a stone taken from the Solovetsky islands in Russia’s far north, the location of the Soviet Union’s first Gulag jail camp.
“This subject of political repression and the closed nature of this subject, the wiping of historic reminiscence, is one and the identical factor as what is occurring with Ukraine,” Ovchinnikov mentioned.