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Protests for Putin's Birthday Include Attempt at Self-Immolation

Group hangs LGBT+ flags on government buildings
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2020 6:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – Bearing a sign that said "Happy Birthday Mr President," a Russian protester set himself on fire on a busy street in St. Petersburg. The 71-year-old businessman is hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns, Newsweek reports. Witnesses heard him screaming "about President Putin's birthday and a gift" around 5pm Thursday, just before he erupted in flames. Witnesses rushed over to help put the flames out. The man, who wasn't named in reports but operates a commercial real estate firm in the area, had been under psychiatric observation, per the Moscow Times. Just last week, a Russian journalist killed herself in an act of self-immolation, leaving behind a message saying to "blame the Russian Federation."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 68 on Thursday, which inspired acts of protest by the activist art collective Pussy Riot. Top Russian officials arrived at work at five government buildings to find LGBT+ flags flying. The group took responsibility for the protest, saying the rainbow flags represent the "lack of love and freedom" in Russia, per the Independent. A list of demands included an end to discrimatory laws and investigations into the killings of gay people in Chechnya. One of the protesters said they dressed as maintenance workers and told security they were handling birthday decorations. "It was wildly comic, but the message is serious," she said. "You can't win by banning love." (Read more Vladimir Putin stories.)

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