MOSCOW -- A Russian artist who painted President Vladimir Putin in lingerie stroking the hair of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said threatening phone calls and the fear of arrest compelled him to flee St. Petersburg for France.
In a telephone interview, Konstantin Altunin said he does not want to return to Russia.
"Today, I appealed to the French prefecture in Paris because I have no other [option]. I would gladly get [local residence and work permits] so that I can be useful to France and to work and pay taxes," he said. "But now, I am forced to request political asylum because I fled very quickly without luggage or money."
On August 26, police seized several of Altunin's paintings that poked fun at the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and lawmakers who promoted controversial legislation against "gay propaganda."
Altunin defended his artistic freedom and described the Russian authorities' response to his paintings as "very unpleasant and very ugly."
Police closed the Museum of Authorities, an art gallery converted from an apartment where the pictures were exhibited.