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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Customs Blocks Satirical Art From Being Sent to Germany

BERLIN -- Customs officials have refused to ship six works of art, including two that poke fun at President Vladimir Putin, to a German art gallery for an exhibition, saying they could spark a dispute, the curator said Tuesday.

The Staedtische Gallerie in Dresden, where Putin was a KGB agent in the 1980s, got a letter from shipping firm ExpART saying Moscow's customs office had turned down a request for the works to be transported.

"The listed artworks were considered as subject for the 'unleash[ing] of ... international dissention' by the Moscow customs," ExpART general director Gleb Makarevich wrote, in English, to the Dresden gallery.

"Our company deeply apologizes for the inconvenience made by such a brutal decision of the customs," the letter said.

The gallery opens an exhibition Thursday of about 40 works of contemporary Moscow artists called "Learning from Moscow."

"This is a setback for us and comes at a time when Russian authorities seem to be getting stricter and tightening the screws," gallery curator Johannes Schmidt said.

"You hear about more authoritarian rule in Russia, and this all seems to be part of the same thing," he added.

Two of the six works of art, from various Moscow art galleries, poke fun at Putin.

One, by Konstantin Latyshev, superimposes Putin's face onto an image of poet Alexander Pushkin. The word "Putkin" is written below.

Another, by the Blue Noses Group and titled "The Candle of our Life" is reminiscent of Russian religious iconography. In a trinity-style picture, Jesus sits in the middle baring chest and beer belly. Pushkin, in a red T-shirt, is on one side, lighting Jesus' candle with a cigarette lighter and Putin leans in toward him from the other side.

The other banned pictures show images of Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Pope Benedict and Muslim women's veils and mosque minarets.