Russian Artist Sets Fire to Former KGB Headquarters

One of Russia's famous human rights activists condemned the action.

— -- A radical Russian artist has set fire to Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters as part of what he said was a piece of political performance art.

On Sunday night, the artist, Pyotr Pavlensky, walked up to the front entrance of Lubyanka, the hulking building in central Moscow that was once home to the Soviet KGB, poured gasoline over the doors and lit them ablaze.

A video released by Pavlensky showed orange flames filling the building’s entranceway and crawling up the doors. In a statement published with the video, Pavlensky named the act “Threat” and said it was meant to protest what he called the methods of terror used by the FSB to control Russian society.

Police quickly arrested Pavlensky, as he stood arms folded, with his back to the fire. Two journalists filming the piece were also arrested with him. Pavlensky has been charged with minor hooliganism, his lawyer told the Russian news agency Interfax.

“The Federal Security Service acts with methods of uninterrupted terror. Terror transforms free people into a sticky mass of isolated bodies,” Pavlensky wrote in his statement. “The threat of inevitable retribution hangs over everyone who finds themselves within the reach of surveillance, of having their conversations eavesdropped on, and at the borders of passport control. ”

Pavlensky’s latest act was praised by some Russian oppositionists, although one of Russia’s most revered human rights activists, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, condemned the action.

"Why set fire to doors? Even if it's a performance, it's an idiotic performance. Imagine if a fire began, there were people inside, they could not have come out. If people burned, how would that be?" Alekseyeva told Interfax.

"He should be examined by doctors. A normal person would not think about doing such a performance," she said.

A Russian court has previously ordered Pavlensky to undergo psychiatric tests after the ear-cutting performance. He was found to be sane.