(THE GUARDIAN) — Red Square has seen a lot over the centuries, from public executions to giant military parades, but a performance artist broke new ground on Sunday when he nailed his scrotum to cobblestones in a painful act of protest.

Pyotr Pavlensky said the protest was his response to Russia’s descent into a “police state” and was timed to coincide with Police Day, which Russia’s law enforcement officials celebrated on Sunday.

“The performance can be seen as a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society,” Pavlensky said in a statement. “As the government turns the country into one big prison, stealing from the people and using the money to grow and enrich the police apparatus and other repressive structures, society is allowing this, and forgetting its numerical advantage, is bringing the triumph of the police state closer by its inaction.”

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