The Russian authorities have launched a hooliganism probe against a performance artist who nailed his scrotum to the ground on Moscow's Red Square last week, police said Friday.
Hooliganism motivated by hatred is the same charge that was presented to Pussy Riot punk band for staging a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral, which led to two band members being sent to prison camps for two years.
If charged and then convicted, the maximum punishment for Saint Petersburg-based performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky could be five years in prison.
On Sunday Pavlensky, 29, stripped naked, sat on the cobblestones of Moscow's historic square and nailed his scrotum into the ground, shocking passers-by. Police eventually prised him free and led him away.
He was briefly hospitalised for a tetanus shot, visited a psychiatrist, and spent a night in a police station, but was unexpectedly released Monday from the district court after the judge found errors in police paperwork and ruled that officers had not proved any offence on his part.
In interviews, Pavlensky said he chose Red Square outside the Kremlin walls because it represents total police control, while his performance represented society's indifference to this control.
"With my performances I show the relationship between society and the authorities," he told Russian Radio Service radio station Thursday evening.
Since his performance he went back to Saint Petersburg.
He previously sewed his lips shut in protest of arrest of Pussy Riot in June 2012 and in May of this year he wrapped his naked body in barbed wire outside the Saint Petersburg parliament to protest the passage of increasingly repressive laws in Russia.