'Celestial Jerusalem.'
© Picture from SERB group Facebook page
Police in Moscow are investigating an attack by vandals at a contemporary art exhibition named 'Celestial Jerusalem.' Activists from the self-styled 'Russian liberation movement' or SERB have claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack took place at the Moscow Contemporary Art Center Winzavod, which currently hosts the exhibition of paintings by artist Vasily Slonov called 'Celestial Jerusalem.' Vinzavod Director Aleksandr (Alex) Sharov wrote on his Facebook page that on Wednesday afternoon a group of unidentified people poured some "pungent-smelling liquid" on the floor of the gallery, took several paintings off the walls and carried them out. Sharov also wrote that the police had not taken any action to stop the attackers.

Some visitors to the exhibition recorded the incident on video and posted the footage to social networks. Many users recognized the attackers as activists from the so-called 'Russian liberation movement' or SERB - a radical conservative group known for attacks on art exhibitions and opposition figures.

An exhibit from the "Celestial Jerusalem" exhibition, photo from Alex Sharov's Facebook
Shortly afterwards SERB claimed responsibility for the attack in a Facebook post. The activists described the exhibition as provocative and anti-Russian and also claimed that Slonov's works were very popular among Ukrainian nationalists. They also categorically denied accusations of stealing the paintings that they took from the exhibition, claiming that they took several works to present them to police as evidence.

In comments made to TASS, one of SERB activists, Igor Beketov, said that they had managed to stop the "anti-Russian and anti-presidential exhibition."

On Thursday morning a source in the Interior Ministry Directorate for Moscow City told TASS that the police were investigating the incident. The source also said that one of the works that was damaged by vandals had been sent to forensic experts in order to assess the damage and that police had made in connection with the incident.

The gallery's website describes the 'Celestial Jerusalem' exhibition as "an artistic materialization of the author's contemplations over the fate of the world as a whole and about the fate of Russian civilization in particular."

SERB is known for carrying out a number of similar attacks on art exhibitions and various figures whose opinions do not match their conservative agenda. One of the more recent stunts launched by the group was the attack on the exhibition of US photographer Jock Sturges in Moscow. In September 2016 one man entered the gallery and sprayed several pieces with a mix of urine and acetone. Back then, the vandal was detained and received seven days of civil arrest for petty hooliganism.