Moscow gallery attack targets Ukrainian troop photos

Moscow (AFP) - Dozens of pro-Kremlin activists have attacked a Moscow exhibition of photographs of Ukrainian forces in the separatist conflict, defacing images, tearing down signs and forcing its temporary closure, organisers said on Thursday.

A group of several dozen activists stormed into the Andrei Sakharov exhibition centre in protest at a display of documentary photographs of Kiev's troops in Donetsk, calling themselves defenders of the separatist region.

The attacker targeted images shot by Sergei Loiko, a journalist who covered the conflict for the Los Angeles Times, and Belarusian Alexander Vasukovich, the centre said.

The exhibition included Loiko's 2014 images of pro-Kiev fighters inside Donetsk's ravaged airport.

The activists targeted the exhibition after a lone activist on Wednesday evening sprayed red paint on around a dozen pictures, accusing the photographers of sympathy for Nazis.

The Sakharov Centre, which promotes human rights, wrote on Facebook that the activists on Thursday were "people in camouflage and Cossacks. They are shouting 'get the bastards, save Russia'".

The demonstrators said it was a "fascist" exhibition," said Mikhail Kaluzhsky of Open Democracy Russia, a not for profit organisation, who witnessed the attack at the centre.

"There were at least 40 people," among them a local lawmaker carrying a jar of fake blood, he told AFP, adding that the protesters tore down signs inside.

Police stood outside the exhibition centre on Thursday evening, with one telling journalists that a team of investigators was examining the scene, while refusing to give any details.

Anton Belikov, who describes himself as an Orthodox Christian religious artist and sculptor, claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, which was filmed by pro-Kremlin channel Ren-TV.

Organisers replaced the defaced pictures with signs explaining their absence and reopened the exhibition on Thursday, only to experience the second attack.

This was the latest in a series of attacks on cultural events in Moscow by conservative activists.

On Sunday pro-Kremlin activists forced the closure of an exhibition by US photographer Jock Sturges, accusing it of child pornography.

One threw a bottle of urine over the pictures and was jailed for one week for petty vandalism.

In August last year, Orthodox activists from a group called God's Will damaged sculptures at an exhibition of non-conformist Soviet artists in Moscow's Manege arts centre, describing them as blasphemous.