The state of political discourse in Russia could hardly be considered healthy – but it has reached an alarming new low after the car of an anti-government dissident was vandalised with a giant wooden phallus.
Satirists Arseny Bobrovsky and Katya Romanovskaya, who have achieved celebrity status in Russia after being revealed as the duo behind the hugely popular @KermlinRussia spoof Twitter account, woke up on Monday last week to find the 200lb penis chained to their BMW.
Posting on their joint Facebook account, the car’s owner, Bobrovsky, wrote: “Finally, the day has come when my work has been noticed and appreciated.”
In a country where transparent and outspoken anti-governmental figures struggle to stay so for long, the pair set up their satirical account anonymously in 2010 as a response to then-President Dmitry Medvedev’s announcement of the official feed @KremlinRussia.
Their number of followers has surged to more than 700,000 – and such is their popularity, that it is claimed they triggered Mr Medvedev to set up his own @MedvedevRussia account to avoid confusion.
Bobrovsky and Romanovskaya revealed themselves as the so-called “Kermlins” last year in a story in Russia’s GQ magazine, and the pair recently featured prominently in a New Republic cover story on Russian democracy.
According to that publication, the giant penis is likely the work of Nashi, described as a pro-government youth group “paid and brainwashed to be the Kremlin’s blunt instrument of revenge”.
New Republic reported that aside from the practical difficulty of removing the phallus – with police “laughing too hard to get their act together” – there is a sinister side to the incident. The satirists had been away at a conference in France and only returned with their car late on the night the prank was carried out – making it highly likely their house was being watched.
Though it is impossible to trace the incident back to any direct government involvement, such a prominent attack on outspoken government opponents could well prove a talking point ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, which open tomorrow.