Rights defender Alexeyeva calls for punishing religious activists who vandalized sculpture exhibition in Moscow

Prominent Russian human rights defender and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeyeva believes the radical Orthodox activists who vandalized a sculpture exhibition at Moscow's Manege exhibition hall should be punished.

"I believe what happened is absolute obscurantism," Alexeyeva told Interfax on Saturday.

Interfax had said earlier that several activists led by Dmitry Tsorionov, the leader of the God's Will movement, had ransacked an exhibition called 'Sculptures We Don't See' at Manege on Friday evening. The attackers damaged several sculptures, saying that the exhibits insulted the feelings of true believers.

The exhibition displayed works by prominent Soviet avant-garde sculptor Vadim Sidur.

"The destruction of publicly displayed art works is hooliganism and vandalism. This needs to be punished. Otherwise, they'll end up coming to the Tretyakov Gallery and cutting paintings depicting nudity or something like this," Alexeyeva said.

Eduard Limonov, a writer, an opposition activist, and the leader of the unregistered party The Other Russia, told Interfax on Saturday that, while he objected to ransacking exhibitions, he did not think the religious activists should be punished too severely.

"It shouldn't be allowed to attack exhibitions. Otherwise, what will we end up in? Some groups of citizens shouldn't be engaged in censorship," Limonov said.

At the same time, Limonov, whose supporters are known for a number of radical political actions, said: "I am not on the repressive part of society, and it never occurred to me to demand some punishment."

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