FEMEN Activists Try to 'Steal' Russian Election in Putin Protest

Polling station officials clash with topless members of Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN members at a polling station in Moscow on Sunday, March 4, 2012. Written on the bodies of the anti-Putin women is the slogan "I steal for Putin", referring to their symbolic act of trying to steal a ballot box. (Misha Japaridze)

FEMEN Activists Try to 'Steal' Russian Election in Putin Protest

“We Came, We Undressed, We Conquered”

Activists from the Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN were arrested while protesting at a Moscow polling place just minutes after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cast his ballot Sunday afternoon.

The women had "I steal for Putin" written on their chests and shouted "Putin is a thief!", accusing him of rigging the vote, allegations widely repeated by Putin's critics during the campaign.

Earlier today, a Russian court ordered the 3 women to be held under arrest for up to 12 days. Upon their release the women will be expelled from the country.

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The Wall Street Journalreports:

Naked theft. That appeared to be the message a group of women's rights activists were trying to convey Sunday in protesting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's attempt to return to the Kremlin for a third term.

At a polling station in Moscow, three young women from the Ukrainian group FEMEN drew the attention of TV cameras, which had just filmed Mr. Putin casting his vote, and stripped to their waists to reveal the slogan "I will steal for Putin" painted across their bare chests and backs. They then started shouting "Putin is a thief!" and tried, unsuccessfully, to make off with the perspex urn in which the prime minister's ballot lay.

FEMEN, which made its name campaigning against sex tourism in Ukraine, has made bare-breasted protest its trademark ("We came, we undressed, we conquered" is its mission statement). It has demonstrated in the past against gas monopoly Gazprom's "gas blackmail," against former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's alleged links with prostitution and against the re-election of Alexander Lukashenko as president of Belarus in a vote that was widely criticized as being rigged.

Russian television had given FEMEN's protest against Lukashenko extensive coverage at the time. With a pleasing symmetry, Sunday's FEMEN operation was documented in loving detail by Belarusian TV.

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The Russian Legal Information Agencyreports:

The Gagarinsky District Court of Moscow upheld on Monday the administrative arrest ranging from five to twelve days of the Ukrainian FEMEN movement activists, who were detained for stripping at a Moscow polling station on Sunday, lawyer Violetta Volkova told.

She said the court shrugged off the defense's arguments that the act of stripping was politically motivated, and considered it an act of exhibitionism.

The court also dismissed the defense's motion for lighter charges against the activists.

The incident occurred at a polling station at the Russian Academy of Sciences where presidential candidate Vladimir Putin voted. Three FEMEN activists stripped to the waist and chanted anti-governmental slogans.

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