An Italian street artist displayed a poster depicting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin kissing days before an LGBTQ pride parade.
Street artist Andrea Villa hung a large poster of Putin and Zelensky kissing at the edge of a Turin city street on Wednesday, three days before the Turin Pride parade on June 18. The artist previously hung an image depicting Putin as a Nazi leader. Adolf Hitler in protest against Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24.
The new poster shows Putin and Zelensky, both dressed in suits and supported by their respective national flags, pursing their lips while kissing, with Putin’s arms perched on Zelensky’s shoulders. The hashtag #PrideAndLove is written at the top of the poster.
Villa told Newsweek that the image was inspired by the Russian painter Dmitry Vrubel My God, help me survive this deadly love, a mural located on a surviving section of the Berlin Wall. The mural depicts Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker, the leader of East Germany, indulging in a type of platonic greeting known as a socialist brotherly kiss.
While the brotherly kiss in Vrubel’s painting represented the “solidity of the bond between” the Soviet Union and East Germany, Villa said, the collapse of the Berlin Wall revealed the contradiction of a ” clearly a failed experiment”. Villa said there was a “parallel with the same European peace utopia, which has now also disappeared” due to the Russian-Ukrainian war.
“I wanted to represent the pride (Pride) of Russia, a country that has never known true democracy because it is too afraid of losing its role as a world power,” Villa said of his poster depicting Putin. and Zelensky. “And the hope (Love) that the two states (Russia and [Ukraine]) can catch up and end the conflict.”
The Italian press dubbed Villa the “Turin Banksy”. Villa dismissed the comparison in an interview with an Italian newspaper Liberoclaiming he was on “a totally different path” from Banksy, insisting the moniker was only used “to sell the headlines”.
Like his more famous British counterpart, Villa’s true identity is unknown. The name “Andrea Villa” is a pseudonym, while the artist also wears a mask that completely obscures his face when appearing in public.
The poster of Putin’s Villa sporting a disposable razor as a Hitler mustache in a fake Gillette ad went viral earlier this year when it was shared by hacker group Anonymous, according to Forbes.
Several photos of the Putin and Zelensky poster, taken by photographer Stefano Guidi and licensed to Getty Images, show a masked Villa hanging the poster and standing nearby on Wednesday.
Although the poster shows a type of platonic kiss, its placement just before the Turin Pride Parade and the use of the word “Pride” suggest a connection to LGBTQ issues. Russia and Putin have been heavily criticized in recent years for a culture of homophobia and anti-LGBTQ laws.
Conditions for the LGBTQ community in Russia have deteriorated since the start of the war in Ukraine, according to the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Political persecution of LGBTQ activists has also reportedly increased, while homophobic propaganda has been used to justify war.
Gleb Latnik, a Russian refugee and leader of the RUSA LGBT group, told CEPA that LGBTQ people in Russia are also less likely to support the war because they know that “if Russian propaganda lies about LGBT members, it can lie about everything else”.
“As a result, these people are more active in expressing their position against the war, and that is why they are more likely to be victims of repression,” he added.
Newsweek contacted the Ukrainian and Russian embassies in Washington, DC, for comment.