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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mikhalkov Egg-Throwers Walk Free

After four months in a prison holding cell, the young member of the National Bolshevik Party who hurled an egg at filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov finally walked out of his prison cage Monday.

The 22-year-old political activist was convicted of hooliganism and given a 2 1/2-year suspended sentence, only to be freed on a recently passed general amnesty.

Many of the party members in attendance at the Presnensky district court gasped with relief and joy when the defendant, Dmitry Bakhur, walked out of his courtroom cage after the judge read out the verdict.

A second defendant, Yegor Gorshkov, 27, received the same verdict and punishment. Unlike Bakhur, however, Gorshkov, a Muscovite with a small child, did not have to spend the four months in an overcrowded Butyrka prison holding cell.

Although his clients were found guilty, the lawyer for the two young men, Sergei Belyak, called the verdict a moral victory. "The case of Bakhur and Gorshkov has become the case of Mikhalkov," he said. "He's lost."

Even the prosecutor, Lyudmila Khorkova, appeared to argue in favor of the offenders, saying egg-throwing, while it may have damaged Mikhalkov's suit, cannot be qualified an act of violence. Neither can Bakhur and Gorshkov be accused of resisting arrest, she said.

The egg-throwing incident took place March 10 at the Central House of Cinematographers, where Mikhalkov was giving a lecture. Bakhur and Gorshkov were among the audience members who resented the director's lavish self-praise of his $40 million blockbuster movie, "The Barber of Siberia," that had opened to great fanfare just days before. They demonstrated their distaste by throwing eggs at the stage after Mikhalkov said he deserved a monument for the movie and the amount of people he had helped employ. One egg landed on Mikhalkov's pants.

Two witnesses said they were shocked by what happened next.

"Mikhalkov said from the stage: 'Go get them!' and people who appeared so cultured jumped on [Bakhur and Gorshkov] like a bunch of wild beasts and started beating them," said Yury Makagon, who was sitting across the aisle from the egg-throwers.

Makagon said he saw the director walk down the stage and kick Bakhur in the head. The director's actions were recorded on videotape.

"If something like that happened to me, I would probably hit the offender in the face, but ? Mikhalkov kicked an absolutely helpless opponent," said another witness, Anatoly Tishkov, who works in a city morgue.

"This was an emotional act ? not hooliganism but rather an expression of their discontent with a politician and artist," Belyak said. "A public figure has to realize that people don't always like what he does. He has to swallow that."

The lawyer went on to name several public figures who had more graciously suffered the consequences of similar expressions of discontent. French film director Jean-Luc Godard and Microsoft maverick Bill Gates got their faces smudged with cake. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was spattered with red paint. State Duma Deputies Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Gennady Zyuganov "are constantly getting egged, but none of them goes to court for that," Belyak said.

Many criticized Mikhalkov for overreacting, soiling not only his expensive Italian suit, but also his reputation. The Oscar-winning actor and director, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions, called a news conference after the offenders had been detained, labeling the incident as a terrorist act.

However, several months after the incident there are signs that Mikhalkov is cooling down. According to the film-maker's attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, Mikhalkov insisted that based on their youth and the petty nature of the offense, Bakhur and Gorshkov avoid imprisonment.

Eduard Limonov, the leader of the National Bolshevik Party to which Gorshkov and Bakhur belong, defended his young members Monday.

"Indignation and helplessness brought them to this step," Limonov said. "These are honest boys. I'm not proud of what they did, but I understand their emotions."