Russian activist sets fire to FSB Lubyanka door

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Media captionPyotr Pavlensky set fire to the door of the FSB, Russia's security service

A Russian artist and political activist has been arrested after setting fire to the Moscow headquarters of the country's security service, the FSB.

Pyotr Pavlensky set the door of the Lubyanka building alight and was pictured standing in front of the blaze holding a petrol can.

Mr Pavlensky was arrested in 2013 after he nailed his scrotum to the floor of Moscow's Red Square in protest.

The Lubyanka building is the historical home of Russia's security services.

The imposing building was used by the country's secret police and later KGB - the forerunner to the FSB - and contains a prison.

Mr Pavlensky has been questioned on suspicion of vandalism, a charge that carries a jail sentence of up to three years.

Two journalists who filmed the performance were taken in for questioning, Russian media reported.

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Image caption Mr Pavlensky was arrested at the scene

The performance artist released a video of the stunt, and said in a statement: "The FSB acts using a method of uninterrupted terror and maintains power over 146 million people.

"Fear turns free people into a sticky mass of uncoordinated bodies," he added.

"The threat of inevitable reprisal hangs over everyone who can be tracked with devices, have their conversations listened to, or at borders with passport checks."

Sarah Rainsford, BBC News, Moscow

Inspired or crazy, creative artist or cheap stunt man, Pyotr Pavlensky divides opinion but rarely leaves Russians indifferent. Thanks to the shock factor of his art he is well known here and his latest work is perhaps his most audacious. On social media, some have praised his challenge to the powerful FSB as "courageous" and "heroic" - a fellow performance artist of Pussy Riot fame proclaimed Pavlensky the "mind, conscience and balls" of the age.

But there's criticism too. State TV anchorman Vladimir Solovyov dismissed all talk of the fire as art. If someone set fire to an opposition leader's office, not the FSB, that would instantly be seen as a "terrorist act against freedom", he said.

Surprisingly perhaps, Mr Pavlensky has only been prosecuted once before. That trial for vandalism is still ongoing but it clearly hasn't deterred him. When prosecutors tried to force him to undergo psychiatric testing, the artist stripped naked, mounted the wall of a famous psychiatric institute and lopped-off part of his ear lobe.

Mr Pavlensky hit the headlines in 2013 after nailing his scrotum to the cobblestone of Red Square to protest against tight police control.

He has previously sewed his lips shut to protest against the arrest of the band Pussy Riot, cut off part of his earlobe in a protest over the forced psychiatric treatment of dissidents, and wrapped his naked body in a "cocoon" of barbed wire outside Russia's parliament building.

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Image caption Pyotr Pavlensky sewed his lips shut to protest against the arrest of the band Pussy Riot

The artist is facing three years in prison over a 2014 performance in St Petersburg, in which activists set fire to tyres and waved a Ukrainian flag to simulate the Maidan protests that led to the ousting of Ukraine's pro-Moscow leader, Viktor Yanukovych.

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Media captionPyotr Pavlensky was already facing three years in prison for an earlier protest in St Petersburg

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