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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Investigate Sakharov Museum

The Tagansky District prosecutor's office has opened a criminal investigation into an art exhibit at the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center that mocked religious and Soviet figures.

The weeklong "Forbidden Art" exhibit in March featured paintings and mosaics that were banned during Soviet times, and prosecutors are investigating whether it incited ethnic or religious hatred.

The crime is punishable by up to four years in prison.

"There will be a criminal investigation for showing offensive material, but it is not yet clear who will be charged," City Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said Thursday.

The exhibit, which included paintings with Mickey Mouse's head substituted for that of Jesus Christ, drew sharp criticism from Russian Orthodox Church officials, who rejected the exhibit as art and labeled it a "civil crime."

The exhibit's curator, Andrei Yerofeyev, countered that it was not for the church to decide what constitutes art and that people were free not to attend.

The museum's director, Yury Samodurov, was convicted and fined by the Tagansky District Court in 2005 on similar charges for a 2003 exhibit called "Caution, Religion!" which Samodurov said was a warning against religious fanaticism.