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Moscow's Sakharov museum attacked by vandals
January 19, 2003

The Sakharov museum, dedicated to Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been vandalized by a group of people outraged at an exhibition on religion, the museum director told AFP on Sunday.

Six individuals entered the museum on Saturday and poured red paint on the walls and paintings and smashed windows in a room housing a temporary exhibition entitled "Look out religion!," said Yury Samadurov. Police were called and within a short time arrested the group, but most of the exhibition of works by some 40 artists was already damaged, he added.

"Nearly all the works were destroyed. They explained their actions by saying that the exhibition offended Orthodox beliefs," he said.

"Some were fairly revolting works which could shock people," the director conceded, but added: "It's modern art."

Moscow police said that the assailants had said they were church followers, the Interfax news agency reported.

The museum houses numerous archive documents on Soviet-era repression, photographs and "samizdat" -- underground-printed editions of banned writers.

Sakharov, a physicist and peace activist who died in 1989, won the Nobel prize in 1975 for his efforts on behalf of freedom of speech and democracy in the Soviet Union.

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